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The Asian finance job where the boutiques are taking over

Singapore FX jobs

Boutiques open for business in FX

The FX market in Singapore is booming, but while FX jobs at banks remain stable most new vacancies in the sector are at boutique electronic houses.

The average daily trading volume of Singapore’s FX market was US$517bn in April 2016, up 35% from 2013, according to a report released this month by the Monetary Authority of Singapore. The figures reinforce Singapore’s position as the largest FX centre in Asia Pacific and third largest globally.

Electronic trading firms have benefited the most from this increase, says Nicholas Wells, a director at search firm NewtonCHASE in Singapore.

“They now largely dominate recruitment in FX in Singapore because the recent growth in eFX here has been explosive,” he adds.

“The main type of firms hiring are the brokers and algo trading firms like XTX markets, who are building out significantly across Asia. EBS also has a highly competitive platform here, and there are new players looking to expand in Singapore,” says Wells.

Banks, meanwhile, are refocusing their FX recruitment. “Major institutions have been hampered by their legacy IT set-ups in FX. So the big banks in Asia, such as Stan Chart and HSBC, are investing heavily in tech platforms and are hiring programming experts rather than traders,” says Wells.

There are other reasons why banks aren’t hiring in large numbers in FX.

“While Singapore’s stock as a global FX centre has risen, this has come against a backdrop of a cautious world economy where a lot of the FX trades are negative-interest, risk and volatility driven, as opposed to driven by economic growth,” says Pan Zaixian, general manager of recruiters Kerry Consulting in Singapore.

And even the recent rise in tech recruitment, driven by electronic trading, is offset by cuts to the back-office jobs that once manually processed FX trades, says Pan.

“So Singapore can increase its market share in global FX without a substantial nett benefit to headcount in sales, trading or operations,” he adds. “FX risk management, though, is increasing in headcount due to increased risk from higher FX volumes, but in time some of this control work could be automated.”

Still, unlike in equities, banks in Singapore have at least not been cutting their FX sales and trading ranks this year.

“FX is one of the main product groups where jobs at banks are still relatively secure in Singapore,” says Gary Lai, Southeast Asia managing director at recruiters Charterhouse Partnership. “Singapore is a huge FX trading centre, and many banks and even international corporates have their treasury and trading functions here.”

“There are still FX sales and trading positions available, but most of them are for replacement hires,” he adds.

Lai says the city state also has a strong local talent pool in FX. Banks don’t tend to hire traders from overseas, but London remains the main hunting ground if they do need to relocate people.

It’s a similar story with tech-related FX jobs. “Singapore’s open commitment to fintech and the fact that it’s churning out graduates from NTU and NUS with high-level quantitative and programming skills make it a good location for the electronic trading houses to hire staff,” says Wells from NewtonCHASE.

Image credit: Siri Stafford, Getty

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