Corporate and private banks in Hong Kong and Singapore aren’t just hiring relationship managers; the people who develop the products that RMs sell are also becoming increasingly sought after.
Product developers in Asia aren’t only in demand, their job descriptions are changing as banks seek out-going candidates who aren’t afraid to face clients and influence sales staff. This is starting to tempt some RMs to consider a career in product development for themselves.
“Given recent robust RM hiring in Singapore, we’ll likely see more hiring in product roles. More expertise is required to support the higher number of sales staff,” says an in-house headhunter at a private bank in Asia.
Demand for product developers is coming mainly from large banks with extensive in-house product platforms – think Citi, DBS, HSBC and Standard Chartered in corporate banking, and UBS and Credit Suisse in private banking.
While skill shortages in Asian product development aren’t as extreme as in risk or compliance, recruitment isn’t always straightforward. “It’s a very niche market, with only limited talent within the same industry and country,” says Nick Lambe, a partner at Space Executive in Hong Kong. “Most banks in Hong Kong are willing to open up the talent pool to cover the whole of Asia Pacific and to offer relocation packages.”
Banks are also targeting the increasing number of Asian RMs who are tiring of their jobs as they face more onerous revenue pressures. “Some people have moved from RM roles into product ones recently because they no longer want to be in a job that requires them to hit sales targets,” says John Mullally, director of financial services at recruiters Robert Walters in Hong Kong. “And product roles still offer a good base salary, although bonuses aren’t as big.”
There’s a particular shortage of fixed-income product specialists, adds Sunny Kwak, a consultant at recruiters Morgan McKinley in Hong Kong. “So when hiring for these roles, managers interview candidates from different industries like global markets and DCM.”
Don’t expect to hide out in the back office if you want to move into product development in Asia these days. “Job descriptions now cover everything from the product idea conception to commercialisation and sales support,” says Farida Charania, group CEO of search firm Nastrac Group in Singapore. “Salespeople will turn to you as a repository of information, who can help them to make informed decisions and to better package and market products to their clients. You also need to keep abreast of the competition.”
Banks in Asia are looking for product developers who can create strong relationships with RMs and aren’t just focused on financial modelling and product testing. “Having the right personality is now very important for these roles,” says Charania. “You have to liaise with RMs more and more frequently to streamline processes and businesses practices,” adds Lambe.
Product development professionals are increasingly attending client meetings alongside RMs – their expertise helping to differentiate the bank from the competition. “We’re seeing product people becoming more outward facing as they have to spend more time meeting with clients to understand their needs and develop products that can satisfy them,” says Mullally from Robert Walters.
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