It’s a talent-short job market, with quickening approval times, rising salary expectations and a few candidates who lie about their bonus plans: those were some of the key issues raised at the recent eFinancialCareers Singapore roundtable, which was attended by 16 in-house HR professionals from leading international and local financial institutions.
So what was the delegates’ overall view of hiring in 2010? “Busy is an understatement. Only now, with bonus season coming up, are we seeing things trailing off a little bit,” said one attendee, all of whom asked not to be named in this report.
Some banks have had to reign in their recruitment more dramatically than others in the fourth quarter. “We aren’t hiring unless it’s a critical position. We have to get head office to approve each person.”
Yet several other panelists said the intensity of the Asian war for talent has caused their firms to restructured and speed up approval processes. One firm has sliced sign-on times to just one week.
Another delegate added: “For us, back-office roles are pre-approved unless there are sign-on bonuses or other complicating factors. For front-office jobs, the final stage goes to the UK.”
Sought after in Singapore
Attendees agreed that there is no end in sight to the talent shortage in governance-centric functions such as risk, compliance and product control. “Next year we expect another spike, primarily because of Basel III. And this will be new build, not hiring to replace. The existing talent pool in Singapore is small, so we’ll have to recruit from the Big Four or relocate people.”
Singapore’s consumer banking sector suffers from a scarcity of privilege bankers, according to the roundtable. “Every bank is trying to grow in this space at the moment, so you must think out of the box to get talent. We held a networking event in which teachers, civil servants, people outside the industry, came along,” said one panelist.
And although private banking has less flexible recruitment policies than its privilege cousin, firms have recently been forced to consider internal transfers of investment bankers. They may lack assets under management, but at least they have strong client relationships.
Commodities, equity derivatives operations, and project management are other examples of in-demand job functions. “It’s definitely become a candidate-led employment market this year,” commented one attendee.
It’s the money, stupid
The roundtable discussed the reasons for candidates moving jobs this year. One delegate was under no illusions: “People are still motivated by money. They are after 20 to 30 per cent pay increments. Even analysts and associates are moving for 20. During exit interviews they don’t tell you ‘I’m very unhappy with the strategic direction of the bank’, they say ‘I’m moving for bigger money’.”
As EU and US firms defer more of their bonuses in stock, recruiting banks are generally prepared to buy out the whole amount. “Our policy is that we will match your stock,” remarked a representative from a major investment bank.
Interestingly, several delegates said they have come across candidates who have lied about the extent of the deferred stock plans at their current employer in order to get a larger guarantee. Instead of presenting a proper certificate from their firm’s HR department, they have typed up their own letters outlining false bonus programmes.
Counter offers are also causing trouble for banks. “They are creating a huge internal disparity in pay. And team members in turn become less loyal – people want to leave because they didn’t get a counter. In product control, you could be on $70k, while a colleague in the same role is earning $80k. Banks can lose people because of this.”