Singapore headhunter reveals simple reason why he’s now moving more bankers

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I’m a headhunter working in Singapore and my raison d'être for the past few years has been to move teams of bankers – by which I mean at least three people going from firm A to firm B at the same time.

You may find this surprising, but one of the biggest challenges for me when moving teams has traditionally been communicating effectively during the recruitment process. There are so many stages to hiring senior bankers, and new compliance requirements keep adding extra layers. Moreover, when you’re dealing with teams, you can multiple these layers by the number of people involved.

So from the first-stage interview to the final job offer, a lot needs to be communicated and sometimes my clients (i.e. banks that are hiring) need information quickly about my candidates.

Getting through to several senior bankers at once on a work day, however, isn’t always easy. In my experience, they don’t typically reply quickly to emails sent to their personal accounts, while phone calls and text messages are ill suited to eliciting a group response (the former also pose obvious privacy problems in offices).

Frustrating, although instant messaging services have been around for a while (WhatsApp, for example, started back in 2009), the senior bankers I deal with have been slow to take on the technology and certainly slow to use it for sensitive group messages with a headhunter.

As recently as 2014, one senior banker I was moving as part of a team would usually only do phone calls if we needed to communicate during the working day. This meant he’d go down 80 floors of the IFC building in Hong Kong to take calls in the relative privacy of the lobby.

And even when you go to such extreme lengths to get some solitude, if you’re away from your desk too regularly colleagues may still suspect that you’re talking to a headhunter. Fortunately for me, things began to change in 2015 and have been getting steadily better ever since as bankers finally accepted my requests that we do much of our communication via messaging (I typically use WhatsApp).

This sounds simple (and it is), but do not underestimate what a difference it’s made to me and my candidates. I’m now finding that I receive responses faster than in the recent past because bankers are discreetly using messaging on their smart phones to reply during office hours. If the hiring bank wants a document urgently, I can message everyone at once.

But the wider usage of messaging among senior bankers isn’t just speeding up the hiring process – it’s also helping to reassure bankers looking to make what they might perceive as a risky group move.

This is especially important when the interview process in done and the bank is carrying out background checks before making an offer. Bankers can get cold feet if this stage goes on longer than expected. But for the last couple of years, I’ve been using group instant messaging as a way of regularly reassuring them that all is ok.

And I’ve had less push-back than when I had to call or email people. Bankers appreciate a short, sharp, consistent message sent to everyone in the group to let them know the process is on track.

Patrick Huang (we've used a pseudonym to protect his identity) is a senior headhunter in Singapore.

Image credit: laughingmango, Getty

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