The job market in Asian banking has been tight this year, with more layoffs in the front-office and more offshoring in the back-office. As a result, recruiters in Singapore and Hong Kong have noticed an uptick in candidates attempting career changes into more stable functions.
If you’re thinking of making a major job move yourself, these are the sectors where you’re most likely to succeed.
Chinese technology firms are increasingly building large in-house corporate development teams and are recruiting investment bankers to help them with takeovers and listings. “In 2016 I’m seeing more and more Chinese tech corporates hiring bankers,” says Hubert Tam, managing partner at search firm Sirius Partners in Hong Kong. Last month, for example, HSBC's head of APAC technology investment banking, Jeff Chen, joined Chinese online healthcare firm WeDoctor as its chief strategy officer. Chinese tech companies want to grow overseas and are interested in bankers who have cross-border deal expertise.
With large banks still offshoring back-office roles away from Singapore and Hong Kong, some operations people are seeking sanctuary in the buy-side. “We had a candidate who moved from an investment bank to an investment management firm, focusing on derivatives operations,” says Orelia Chan, an associate director at Pure Search in Singapore. “The employer initially preferred someone from the buy-side, but they realised that some operations skills are transferable, so they became open to banking candidates with the right product knowledge, managerial experience and personality fit.”
Commodities salespeople at banks are moving to in-house roles at commodities companies in Singapore, says Angela Kuek, director of search firm Meyer Consulting Group. This career change combines both push factors away from banking (redundancies at FICC teams at global banks) and pull factors into the corporate sector (commodities firms continue to expand in Singapore, the industry’s Asian hub). “They usually go to an ex-client and look after the financing structures for the company, liaising with banks on its behalf,” says Kuek.
“I’ve recently seen more people from a non-audit background moving into the audit function in Asia,” says Richard Fennelly, a director a recruiters Hartwell Buck in Hong Kong. “The main examples have been from operations, trading, technology and risk. The reason banks hire them – in addition to their potential for developing strong audit skills – is because of their subject-matter expertise in the areas they will be auditing. In this market, where it’s important to identify the next big control gap, someone with first-hand knowledge of their space potentially has a lot to offer in audit.”
Audit can itself be a platform for a career change into compliance. “It’s usually challenging to break into compliance once you’re at AVP level and above,” says Fennelly. “But in recent months I’ve seen a few surprising instances, particularly auditors – who were strong in either equities or fixed income – moving into product-compliance advisory. Banks hire them for their product knowledge, communication skills and previous interactions with the business.”
Global investment banks in Hong Kong and Singapore have been trimming their senior ranks over the past year. “As a result, a number of displaced directors and MDs have taken consultancy and training contracts at small local banks in developing markets like Indonesia, Myanmar and Vietnam,” says Pan Zaixian, general manager of Singapore search firm Kerry Consulting. “Their assignments include developing business strategies, compliance frameworks and trading platforms. It takes some adjustment to move from head-honcho positions at IBs – where they enjoyed great infrastructure support – to now doing their own PowerPoints and booking their own flights.”
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