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Shock, awe and great PR: Can SCB really hire eight people a day in SE Asia over the next two years?

We’re growing a bit bored of big banks using their top brass to announce massive upcoming hiring sprees in Asia: JP Morgan, DBS and Citi, to name but a few, have all been at it.

But when it comes to recruitment grandstanding, Standard Chartered is leading the charge.

The firm announced this week that it plans to add up to 4,000 staff in South East Asia alone over the next two years. That’s roughly eight people every working day. No wonder its internal recruitment team is reportedly 300-strong.

Ray Ferguson, Stand Chart’s SEA chief executive, says the hiring drive, which follows an unannounced rise of more than 4,000 since 2007, reflects the bank’s confidence in the region’s economy, according to a report in the Financial Times.

But why did he decide to speak so openly on the sometimes sensitive subject of headcount?

Talk quantity, get quality

“I think it was mainly to build a strong employer brand on the back of another solid year of performance,” comments one Singapore-based recruiter, who asked not to be named. Stand Chart’s operations in the city state – which make up about half of its regional business – reported record revenues of US$913m in the first half.

The hiring statement also helps reinforce the bank’s current advertising slogan that it is “here to stay” in Asia, she adds. So perhaps the positive PR generated will help attract quality candidates, which could ultimately be more important than whether SCB actually hits its ambitious target.

“I suppose the other more obvious reason [for the new hiring] would be the move into new premises in Singapore. There must be a number of empty desks sitting idle now,” remarks another recruiter.

But the figure of 4,000 is not entirely fanciful, he adds. “With Stand Chart’s investment into Asia, and more significantly Singapore, I feel it’s not outside the realms of possibility that this is a number which could be achieved.”

Who will be hired?

Ferguson did not comment on which job functions will generate the most vacancies over the next two years, but headhunters with knowledge of the bank point to several sectors. On the wealth management side, private and priority banking will expand as the firm tries to capture more rich South East Asian clients

On the wholesale front, origination, client-coverage groups, and the group transaction bank will grow. “I believe it will also hire in the technology and ops space, and in IT infrastructure as well in order to build or upgrade IT platforms,” comments the first recruiter.

Aside from Singapore, SCB is also expected to recruit in the regional emerging markets of Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand. Its headcount growth will be largely organic, according to Ferguson, responding to market rumours that the bank is on the acquisition trail.

Comments (6)

  1. Being an insider, I would take SCB’s PR talk with a pinch of salt. There have been way too many grand recruiting numbers given too many times in the past which have not been met nor supported by internally approved headcount. Also SCB suffers from poor market reputation as an employer, making their attempted poaching of quality staff from other more reputable organizations a real challenge.

  2. I agree PinchofSalt .

  3. Standard-Chunder is a puzzle palace of political intrigue that couldn’t find its collective HR ass with both hands. The level of regard in which the bank holds itself is ludicrous in the context of their reputation as an employer. Fail.

  4. Let’s not forget the constant stream of good people leaving SCB for banks that treat their employees and their careers with more respect.

  5. SCB was lucky to have gone through financial crisis unscathed. Their continuous failures of entering into the US and European market have saved them from a fate of credit losses… And with that, they picked up numerous talented and experienced bankers in Asia who frankly had no choice back then. The place is very much about connections and is very political. Good people are not properly rewarded and recognized. I speak as an insider.

  6. This discussion and kat’s comments on your Singapore website are spot on. I am a banker of Asian descent with a western upbringing, Ivy League education and more than 20 years as top Management in global banks. During my days heading a unit in SCB, I lost track of the number of times my recommendations for promotions of Asian staff were overruled by the white colonial masters in favor of white staff on my team who were not only grossly incompetent but whose dereliction of duty caused severe harm to the business. Soon after joining SCB, I was given veiled threats couched as mentoring advice that it would be “critical to my success” at SCB that their advice was heeded with respect to members of the Old Boys’ Club. I left the Bank soon after as my career prospects were dim unless I agreed to be “whipped”. With limited budget to hire additional staff to backstop grossly under-performing whites promoted to critical management positions within my team, it was only a matter of time before my team started under-performing and the Bank got into real trouble. I was in no doubt the blame would be laid at the door of the “locals”.

    The Sun Never Sets on the British Empire Reply

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