If you’re applying for a banking job in Asia via a recruiter, spare a thought for their travails. Banks in Singapore and Hong Kong are increasingly giving only their trickier vacancies to agency recruiters, while they work on easier job openings in-house.
What type of finance roles are proving most difficult to fill for recruiters in Asia? Here’s a selection.
“A high-frequency automated trading fund took an entire year to hire one quant trader,” says Farida Charania, Asia Pacific CEO of search firm Nastrac Group. “The skill sets were unique because the fund still uses Linus (most of its competitors don’t) and the candidate had to be a PhD. They also needed to get through AI-driven technical interviews – that’s like winning chess against a computer – so it was a very challenging assignment.”
“I worked with a commodities broker looking for a senior compliance person in Singapore. The candidate needed a good understanding of different APAC markets and product knowledge in the very niche area of commodities compliance,” says Serene Tan Sin Yi, an associate director at LMA Recruitment. “The talent pool was small and it was a standalone position, which isn’t a popular option for compliance people. We had to compromise on the skill criteria in order to find someone.”
“We recently completed a search for a country head for a large global bank, but it took nearly six months,” says Jay Abeyasinghe, an associate director of financial services at recruiters Morgan McKinley in Singapore. “The big number of senior people in the market caused the process to drag out because of the sheer choice available to the bank. And the candidates also required bonus guarantees.”
Technology firms in Asia have stepped up their hiring of bankers over the past two years, but finding the right people for these corporate development roles isn’t always easy. “We recruited a head of investments and acquisitions for a fast-growing tech firm. The large amount of candidates – particularly bankers looking to leave IB for tech – meant it was a long process,” says Abeyasinghe. “But the package was still less than what investment banks pay in total comp. And there was a difficult mix of skills: tech knowledge, finely-honed deal origination and execution skills, and the ability to fly overseas for work at a moment’s notice.”
The surge in demand for cyber security staff is only a recent phenomenon in Asia and the supply of local talent is limited. “Banks also face competition for candidates from almost every other industry, especially the consumer, commodities, technology, fintech and government sectors,” says Gary Lai, Southeast Asia managing director at recruiters Charterhouse Partnership. “Large banks are looking to hire mostly Singaporeans, which further limits the pool.”
You don’t typically find talent shortages in the back-office in Singapore and Hong Kong, but there are exceptions. “Tax operations is a tricky role to recruit for as the function usually sits overseas, mostly in Europe or India,” says Lim Chaileng, director of banking at recruitment firm Randstad. “So when I do recruit in Singapore, there’s a severe shortage of candidates with relevant experience and only a small number of banks in the country with tax operations teams to hire from.”
Image credit: Martin Barraud, Getty