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“I recruit for a big bank in Singapore. This is what the job market is really like”

Banking job Singapore

I spend my working hours recruiting for an American bank in Singapore. My job involves talking to my HR colleagues, to hiring managers, to candidates from other banks, to agency recruiters who want my business, and even to my counterparts at other firms.

I think this gives me a good perspective on what’s really happening in the job market in Singapore. Here’s my take.

It’s a one-horse race for Standard Chartered

Last year it made drastic cuts to its management ranks globally. But in Singapore this year – according to my sources – Standard Chartered has hired more than 1,000 people. Without the bank, which uses Singapore as its unofficial headquarters, a lot of recruitment agencies here would probably go out of business. Large transformation and restructuring projects are apparently the driver of a lot of the hires, and the bank has also taken on hundreds of IT professionals.

The back-office is still dying

At its peak in late 2007/early 2008, Barclays Singapore employed about 900 staff in its Singapore operations hub. This year, I understand that the number has dwindled to less than 100. This is a good example of how much the back-office sector in Singapore has suffered, particularly in 2016 when banks such as Barclays and Credit Suisse carried out what could be the last of their major offshoring efforts. The job market in this function is now horrible, particularly if you’re an experienced manager.

FCC candidates are beyond sought-after

Financial crime compliance people have long been in demand in Singapore. But in the wake of the money-laundering scandal involving Malaysia’s 1MDB fund (which led to MAS fining DBS and UBS, and closing the local offices of BSI and Falcon Private Bank), they can now practically walk into a new job. Deutsche is rumoured to have hired more than 30 FCC people on contract, while Credit Suisse has recruited similar numbers across both Singapore and Hong Kong.

It could be worse for Deutsche Bank

Speaking of Deutsche, while the firm is far from the force it was in Singapore just two or three years ago, its local layoffs could have been far worse had it needed a bail-out by the German government this year. This would no doubt have thrown even more people into an already crowded Singapore job market. I think everyone working in banking is relieved about this.

Swiss banks are on a spree

Not since 2006 and 2007 have we seen the private banking job market grow like it is in 2016. While smaller players like ANZ and Barclays have decided to quit the Asian wealth sector, UBS and (in particular) Credit Suisse and Julius Baer are now more aggressive with their recruitment than they have been for many years. RMs in Singapore will have plenty of job options for the next 12 to 18 months as these firms still haven’t met their headcount targets.

The author has been recruiting for the banking industry in Asia – in both agencies and in-house – for more than 10 years.

Image credit: loveguli, Getty

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