Traders riding volatile stock markets, private bankers cashing in on billionaire wealth, China globalising its currency – Asia’s financial sector is one of growth and glamour.
Or is it? Many of the most in-demand banking jobs in Singapore and Hong Kong are actually rather on the dull side.
But taking one of these "boring" roles could eventually lead to something better, say recruiters.
Banks in Asia are struggling to hire enough internal auditors this year, with Big Four candidates often reluctant to swap multiple clients for the confines of an in-house job. “But while it may be dull, internal audit at a bank can be a shortcut to greater things,” says Matthieu Imbert-Bouchard, Singapore managing director of recruiters Robert Half. “It’s career boosting because it provides insight into nearly every area of the bank’s activities – making you well qualified to jump into a more senior finance or mid-office role when the opportunities arise.”
“Regulatory reporting roles are sometimes seen as unglamorous because they’re very niche, but that’s also exactly why they make a good career,” says Imbert-Bouchard. “The amount of knowledge needed to perform the role is high – just think of all the reporting requirements set down by different monetary authorities and regulators as well as the Basel regulations. People with specialist knowledge are hard to replace, so good candidates can command a premium in their salaries and bonuses in Asia.”
“Until recently there weren’t many client onboarding positions in Asia, but there’s been a recent surge as regulations tighten up and banks create a first line of defence,” says Dean Stallard, regional director of recruiters Hays in Hong Kong. “Traditionally these jobs didn’t seem exciting as they were thought to be administrative, but they have evolved – you deal with clients and offer them solutions rather than just check the boxes now. Massive salary increments of 18% to 25% are available, especially at the junior to mid-level. Banks are now receptive to candidates from different backgrounds, such as compliance professionals and even relationship managers because they possess strong communication skills and are familiar with account opening.”
What lies at the opposite end of the career-glamour spectrum to a trendy fintech job? A role where irate bankers call you when they can’t log on. “In technology, the least exciting jobs tend to be in IT support because the tasks are tedious, repetitive and can be simple to resolve,” says Vince Natteri, director of search firm Pinpoint Asia in Hong Kong.” The (slightly) more interesting support roles sit amongst the drama of the trading floor and demand regular dealings with traders. “Desktop support guys are essentially infrastructure guys, so it’s difficult for them to go into development jobs. But they can go into something sexier in the infra space, such as becoming server admins.”
No matter how the bank tries to pimp up the job description, almost all settlements roles are “monotonous and repetitive”, says Kyle Blockley, managing partner of recruitment firm KS International in Singapore. “You get a certain type of candidate for these roles – they’re usually not high flyers, but people who just want to get their break into banking. The people who then get stuck in these roles are usually those with little drive or motivation, but others quickly move to a more interesting job in the middle-office, for example.”
“There’s rising demand for credit assessment and collection roles at banks in Singapore because bad cash flow has become a bigger issue in the current market and more companies are trying to recover their monetary exposures,” says Holly Hatton, manager of financial services at recruiters Michael Page in Singapore. If you build your credit expertise in a back-office assessment role you could then move into the middle-office function of credit risk. And if you have the required people skills, you could eventually even move into a relationship management role in corporate banking.
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