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Editor’s Take: why you should now seriously consider a Singaporean bank

Top flight i-bankers aside, most candidates would be ill advised to ignore the Singaporean banks in their job search.

Don’t assume that DBS, UOB and OCBC will always be outclassed in the employment market now that US and European firms are talking of talent wars once again.

Recruiters tell me that in certain functions, Singapore’s Big Three have begun to ramp up their headcount on the back of revived post-recession lending.

More consumer and commercial vacancies are on the cards in 2010, and we will almost certainly not see a repeat of the November 2008 bloodbath when DBS culled 900 staff.

All three firms are after privilege-banking relationship managers, a rapidly expanding sector in Singapore. They are also hiring in risk, compliance, IT and in many other mid to back-office areas.

Of course the likes of Standard Chartered and ANZ need similar staff, but recruiters stress that, at the very least, Singapore’s banks deserve to be considered alongside the aggressive Westerners.

Compared with the above job functions, institutional banking vacancies are much more limited. If there’s any area where the Sing banks lack clout in the career market, this is probably it. In the words of one headhunter: “Movement from Goldman Sachs to UOB is, well, limited.”

But overall 2010 has started in confident and expansionist fashion for the Big Three. OCBC has raised its ability to attract client-rich private bankers by creating Bank of Singapore from its ING Asia Private Bank acquisition.

It’s the only dedicated private bank headquartered in Singapore, but it’s staking its future on global growth, so look out for RM vacancies servicing clients in Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

In many ways, the competitiveness of Singaporean banks in the battle for banking talent depends a lot on their ability to offer people international careers and to expand beyond the city state.

Take DBS. Revealing a strong set of fourth quarter results on Friday, DBS chief executive Piyush Gupta said within the next five years the bank hopes to earn 40 per cent of its revenue from Singapore, 30 per cent from greater China and the rest from South Asia and Southeast Asia.

Over the past three years, the firm has grown its customer base in China by over four times, and nearly doubled its staff strength to about 1,000. It has vacancies, mainly consumer ones, across mainland cities such as Suzhou, Shenzhen, Nanning, Dongguan, Shanghai and Guangzhou.

Small fry in a country where foreign banks control a pittance of the local market (and where DBS is dwarfed by HSBC, Citi etc), but at least it show the firm has some solid foreign hiring expectations. Working for a Singaporean bank doesn’t always mean working in Singapore.

Comments (9)

  1. I am a returnee from the United States after spending ten years studying, living and working. My last job was working as a financial analyst for a small hedge fund based in Portland, Oregon. I was laid off from that job at the end of December 2009 when the fund was wound up.

    I am currently searching for jobs in the financial services sector in Singapore, but to no avail so far. I’ve just returned home on February 1, 2010 and have started looking for jobs in full force. Before then, while settling my closing out arrangements in the United States, I was also busy searching for jobs through the internet, but I have not received any job offers.

    I have submitted approximately six to ten job applications since last week, but I have not have any luck yet. I am still a novice when it comes to understanding the job market in Singapore. Your article on applying to Singaporean banks does give me some hope.

    I appreciate if someone can provide more useful advice or news articles on the financial services job market in Singapore. I do appreciate it very much. I think it will take me some time to get adjusted to life in Singapore, but I remain confident.

  2. Agree and endorse with Tay fully . Similar to Tay i also do have twelve years of experience in different countries in Finance field, I have been contacting/applying lots of consultants in singapore for the past three months but i am getting the reply “All the best ” for your search. Now i am going back to Middle East and hopefully i will return shortly with success recipe for singapore market.

  3. It seems that after the hoo-ha and low unemployment figures, it’s only the local graduates whose universities have career portals and special employment arrangements with the biggest firms in Singapore that get employed.

    Overseas Singaporeans returning as fresh graduates or with experience have all been facing a difficult time getting hired, even those with Ivy League credentials or degrees from the top Canadian, British and Australian universities.

    Rosy employment prospects seem to be mere propaganda, working as a tool to achieve what it purportedly claims has been achieved. The real employment market reflects otherwise. I would estimate graduate employment dissatisfaction at about 30%, with these people working diploma-level jobs in name brand banks to get a foot in, or working in jobs that pay much less than the average $2400 salary that graduates are advertised to be making.

    overseassingaporean Reply
  4. I also went to singapore for job in Investments but could’t find it. So I landed up in UAE. Better to gain experience somewhere else n then return to singapore with good experience which might help.

  5. Hey Tay1976,
    why not start your trading account? Trade for your own account, don’t depend on other people to give you a job. Today’s economy is tough, got to try something new. I am an engineer, but end up working in finance.

  6. Join Singapore bank good what. Got Gahmen help secure the future of Singapore banks.

  7. Hi Rajesh

    Good luck in your job search in the Middle East. I think you it will be a up and coming place for finance despite the ongoing issues with Dubai.

  8. Hi Yan

    This comment is directed to Yan’s comment on starting a trading account.

    I do have a trading account, a Singapore and with Charles Schwab in the US, strictly trading US stocks. I am currently doing day trading in Singapore and US stocks while searching for jobs here in Singapore.

    I have to say that day trading does provide an alternative, but I don’t do big enough trades that can support me monthly. I am not an active trader and I am still a novice at it.

    Anyhow, I will try to keep a lookout for job opportunities. I think I might go for my fifth attempt at the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Level I exams if things do not work out. Also, some skills upgrading courses will be good as well. It is tough out there in Singapore, but I think one should be hopeful as well.

  9. I’m a local grad and if there’s “career portals and special employment arrangements”, me and my university-mates must be rather clueless about it. From what I know, banks (like Credit Suisse) do employ through the university portal, but most other banks still make you apply to their own career sites.

    What I’ve been hearing (on the contrary) is that the overseas Aussie grads (not counting in USyd, Melbourne U, ANU) are able to land jobs more easily than local grads.

    Oh well. My point in this post is more to wish us all the best in finding a job soon. And that we’re more than the jobs we hold, our value is more than our position(s).

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