The Chinese New Year holidays are over. Some banks have already paid bonuses, while many others are about to. The next few weeks should, in theory, be the ideal period to find a new banking job in Hong Kong or Singapore.
But banks in the two cities need some finance professionals more than they need others. Which jobs are particularly sought after right now? We spoke to several recruiters to find out their most in-demand roles from the back to the front office (we’ll look at hot technology jobs shortly, in a separate article).
How do you get a banking job in Asia?
ECM bankers and research analysts in Singapore
The Monetary Authority of Singapore’s new S$75m Grant for Equity Market Singapore (GEMS) is expected to impact the job market this year. “There should be an uptick in hiring in the long-neglected equities space – this will be the case for ECM bankers and research analysts,” says James Hickman, managing partner of Aquis Search in Singapore. The MAS initiative includes money to subsidise 50% of the salaries for newly-hired experienced researchers. Meanwhile, ECM hiring is expected to pick up thanks to a listing grant to help defray IPO costs for companies wanting to list on the Singapore Exchange.
M&A in Hong Kong
Asian M&A volumes reached their second-best year ever in 2018, and this “momentum” is now opening up more M&A jobs in Hong Kong, says Agnes Yee, a partner at Space Executive. “This is despite global trade uncertainties and the cooling of Chinese domestic M&A. As international firms move to protect access to the Chinese market in the event of future trade barriers, inbound M&A will rise. Regional and global banks are competing in a tight talent pool for M&A bankers this year, especially at associate and VP level,” she adds.
High-net-worth (HWN) relationship managers
While many private banks in Asia remain focused on ultra-high-net-worth RMs (Standard Chartered, for example, recently raised its investment threshold), there will still be plenty of hiring of RMs whose clients are ‘only’ HNW (i.e. they have between about $1m and $5m in investable assets, depending on the bank). This is especially so in Hong Kong, where UBS is on track with its plans to recruit 100 Hong Kong-based private bankers, most of them serving mid-tier millionaires. “Private banks are also expanding their leadership teams to better manage the increasing number of HNW customers who are now based in Hong Kong,” says Rick Chung, associate director of banking and financial services at recruiters Randstad.
Corporate banking relationship managers
It’s not only private banking RMs who are in demand this year; their counterparts in corporate banking are similarly sought after. Banks in Singapore and Hong Kong continue to generate steady revenue from corporate lending and transaction banking services. DBS made “record income” last year from cash management, for example. “I expect heightened demand for experienced and top-performing corporate banking RMs and product specialists,” says Grant Torrens, regional director of recruiters Hays. It isn’t easy for banks to hire these people, however, because the best RMs are typically ensconced in well-compensated roles, and are reluctant to move.
Front-office traders may be suffering falling bonuses after a torrid end to the year in Asian stock markets, but in the back office all that market volatility is driving demand for trade management professionals. “More support is needed to process securities and to manage the operational risk,” says Glen Chua, manager of financial services operations at recruiters Robert Walters in Singapore, adding that more trading management roles are opening up in both private banking and investment banking. “These jobs involve the execution of controls in cash and security reconciliation, and require strong product knowledge in equities, bonds, money markets, foreign exchange and derivatives,” he adds.
Banks in Asia need more data auditors to monitor their rapidly expanding big data teams. Hiring is increasing in both data science audit and data analytics audit, says Sumukhi Ramnath, a managing consultant at recruiters Ambition in Singapore. In the former, which is partly a business-advisory function, candidates typically come from a data science and/or machine learning background and don’t always have audit experience. By contrast, data analytics auditors are more integrated into traditional audit teams. They usually have an audit/controls background, but also have data visualisation skills and a degree in information systems/technology, says Ramnath.
If you have experience in IFRS 9 or 17 (new International Financial Reporting Standards focused on accounting for financial instruments, and insurance contracts, respectively), expect to hear from recruiters in Asia this year. “There was a lot of demand for IFRS 17 technical and project management skills in 2018, and there’s no stopping this year as insurance companies gear up to be compliant,” says Gary De Guzman, associate director of financial services at recruiters Pure in Hong Kong. “But there’s not a lot of technical expertise within the talent pool in Asia, so there’s strong demand for overseas people, who are brought in to consult or lead implementation projects.”
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