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Seven hiring horror stories from Hong Kong, Singapore and Sydney

Seven hiring horror stories from Hong Kong, Singapore and Sydney

Applying for a banking job is the easy bit – the problems usually start happening during the hiring process.

What’s going wrong in banking recruitment right now? We spoke to recruiters in Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia to find out.

Salary mismatches

There’s currently a surplus of senior investment bankers in Asia after several global banks have shed front-office staff over the past 12 months. But that isn’t leading to bankers reducing their salary demands, says Jay Abeyasinghe, associate director of financial services at recruiters Morgan McKinley in Singapore. “Banks understandably now expect candidates to come at a discount. But even in a buyers’ market, top bankers come at a premium, particularly if they’re still happily employed and are top-quartile performers,” he says. “Often the bank ends up selecting a top-tier candidate anyway, but takes extra time to convince global management to sign off on a significantly higher budget.”

Banks changing the game

You’ve applied for a job and suddenly the role requirements change – it’s a more common scenario than you might think. “I’m increasingly seeing banks frequently changing job descriptions mid-search,” says Jessica Chau, a director at G.R.A.C.E. Recruitment Group in Hong Kong. “Factors such as staff turnover and the combining of two roles into one because of costs pressures are leading to this. One of our clients made significant adjustments to a vacancy three times during a search thanks to changing organisational structures, which were out of their control locally.”

The problem with fintech

Convincing candidates to quit banking for fintech isn’t always straightforward, says Angela Kuek, director of search firm Meyer Consulting Group, who describes recruiting for a Chinese start-up in Singapore as the “most challenging assignment” of her career. “Some people aren’t comfortable working for Chinese firms, fintech is a new industry, and the company isn’t well-known locally. It also prefers candidates who speak business Mandarin, and many Singaporeans aren’t as fluent in the language as they think – they struggle with technical terms. Relocating North Asian candidates is difficult, so I’ve had to relax some of the job requirements.”

Sourcing Singaporeans

“Facing even more pressure from the Ministry of Manpower to hire local Singaporeans, most international banks have imposed further restrictions on hiring foreigners this year. But sourcing more locals is challenging, even in niche jobs,” says Evelyn Lee, a director at LMA recruitment in Singapore. “As a result, Singaporean banking professionals based overseas are greatly sought after and pay expectations for all Singaporean candidates have gone up.”

Hiring on hold

Global banks have tighter hiring budgets in Asia than last year and are involving more people in recruitment decisions. But this can sometimes lead to vacancies being stalled. “I’ve encountered a few situations where candidates had gone through multiple stages of interview, only to be put on hold due to internal restructuring or changes in headcount plans,” says Chaileng Lim, a director at recruiters Randstad in Singapore.

Candidates dropping out

If roles are on hold too long, banking professionals will start dropping out – this is increasingly happening in Australia, says Andrew Morris, director of recruiters Robert Half. “One of the biggest challenges we face in banking is that recruitment is getting very drawn out. Banks often add days or even weeks to the process – which often results in them losing top candidates,” he adds. “Hiring managers need to streamline recruitment, limit the number of internal stakeholders, and make the distinction between must-have and nice-to-have skills.”

Financial planners not moving

It can be challenging to move financial planners from large Australian banks to independent brokerages, says Ryan Lewis, regional director of recruiters Michael Page in Australia.  “It’s a leap from the big four banks to the unknown of building up your own book of contacts and operating outside highly sophisticated branch networks,” he adds. “The upside is, if you can build your own book of business, you could break through the A$200k salary bracket to A$400k and beyond.”


Image credit: StephM2506, Getty

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