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“Asian bankers should quit now, BEFORE they get their bonuses”


I recruit in-house for a large US bank in Singapore. And I can remember that only a few years ago banks like mine would happily give you a guaranteed bonus if you agreed to start a job before Chinese New Year (and abandoned your annual bonus at your current firm in the process).

But with these days pretty much behind us, the vast majority of Singaporean bankers are now shutting down their job search until February as they eagerly await their bonus.

Under normal circumstances I would understand this rationale completely. Why walk away from an extra four months’ salary in the form of your annual bonus?

But the problem with this way of thinking is that four or even three-month bonuses have now become increasingly rare. If you work for a global bank in Singapore, you can count yourself lucky to pick up one month’s salary.

And if you’re really unlucky, you could even be facing a redundancy in December/January. Last year Barclays and Goldman Sachs did just this.

Another important point to consider is that if you do chose to wait for your bonus to be paid in February/March, you won’t be alone in your job search. Far from it.

With the unemployment rate currently high (by Singapore standards) and the banking sector struggling, if you wait until then to start your search you can expect competition to be particularly tough – even in functions like technology, audit and risk.

When you think about it, leaving your job in January should no longer be such a daunting thought. Wouldn’t you prefer to be conducting your search in a job market that’s a lot less competitive than the one your peers will be facing after CNY?

You might leave a month’s salary on the table. But if you pick up a 10% increase in base pay (which is still achievable), you will be about breaking even from a financial point of view.

Most importantly, if you’re joining a bank that’s in better shape than your current one (for example, a local Singaporean bank or a private bank), you’re probably picking up some much needed job security in a very unstable and unpredictable employment market.

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

Image credit: alfexe, Getty

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