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Ex-Stan Chart and UOB director leaves Singapore banking, heads to start-up

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A senior banking strategist, who’s held director-level roles at UOB and Standard Chartered in Singapore, has joined a fintech firm based in…India. UOB executive director Karthik Raghupathy moved to PhonePe, a Bengaluru-headquartered start-up that runs a popular payments app, last month as head of strategy and planning.

Raghupathy adds his name to a growing list of banking professionals in Singapore who have left for the tech sector over the past year. But the vast majority of them have stayed in the Republic, joining tech companies (Google has taken on several recent recruits from banks) or setting up their own local businesses. Last year Singapore was rated the world’s best fintech hub by research institute IFZ.

While Raghupathy is currently an outlier, his move could be a sign of things to come as India’s fintech market begins to boom and start-ups there increase their hiring. More than 95% of financial services institutions in the country are exploring fintech partnerships and India offers the highest expected return on fintech investments globally, according to a 2017 PwC report.

Singapore, with its high concentration of Indian tech and banking professionals, is likely to become a prime hunting ground for Indian start-ups over the next 12 months, says a IT recruiter in the city state. Raghupathy’s new sector, online payments, is in particular need of new talent. Morgan Stanley expects India’s digital payments penetration to increase from 5% in 2017 to 20% in 2027.

In a more advanced trend in the Asian job market, Chinese tech companies have been recruiting from banks in Hong Kong for the past three years. Like Raghupathy, many of the new hires have gone into strategy and corporate development roles. In October, for example, Jeff Chen, head of technology investment banking for Asia Pacific at HSBC, moved to online healthcare firm WeDoctor as chief strategy officer. Alibaba has a long history of hiring senior bankers for strategy jobs.

Raghupathy cut his banking-strategy teeth during a seven-year stint consulting for financial services clients at McKinsey & Co in New York, starting in 2005. He moved to Singapore in 2012 as a corporate development director at computer company Dell and then worked for Stan Chart between 2013 and 2015, latterly as head of planning and projects in the COO office. UOB recruited him in 2016 as an executive director in process excellence and he led projects that delivered “improvements in productivity and/or customer experience”.

The talent flow been tech firms and banks like UOB isn’t all one-way in Asia, however. Last month UOB hired Peter Vicente from the Singapore office of Indian IT giant Wipro BPS as a managing director in group operations. UOB is increasingly open to candidates from Amazon, Google, Facebook and Uber, Susan Hwee, the bank’s head of group technology and operations, told us previously.

UOB has been among the more aggressive recruiters in the Singapore banking sector of late. As we reported in November, its headcount rose by 219 year-on-year in the third quarter. This was partly fuelled by hiring of engineers, analysts, digital designers, architects, project managers and data scientists.

Image credit: aydinmutlu, Getty

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