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Forget the job market: If you want to move to Singapore, try an internal transfer

Singapore coast of arms


As banks in Singapore clamp down on costs, they are carrying out less external recruitment of overseas-based candidates. The best route into the city state these days is via a transfer with your current employer, according to a 20-strong panel of in-house financial HR professionals who attended this week’s eFinancialCareers Singapore roundtable. But candidates must first overcome potential managerial objections and be prepared to take a local package.

As well as being cheaper than external relocations, internal mobility programmes should “aim to create an open market for talent and retain people within the organisation,” said one of the roundtable delegates, all of whom asked not to be named in this report. “We are all focusing on internal mobility going forward,” he added.

“Expat” alert

Unfortunately for HR professionals, however, many potential transferees are shocked by Singapore’s high living costs and are demanding expensive expat packages.

“This is the main challenge we face when we are trying to sell them the job. Bankers moving from Europe or the US are questioning their allowances because school here costs $20k to $30k per kid. But is that my problem? No. I never asked them to have children or live in District 10,” said a panellist.

HR must educate candidates, dampening down their expectations and making it clear that they will receive local packages, she added. Another attendee summed up the dilemma: “It’s a shame that internal mobility is still marred by the word expat.”

Managers mar mobility

Several representatives from international banks said the reluctance of line managers to let their team members relocate is hampering the push to create a global internal job market. Managers must ditch this “ownership” mentality.

“They must buy into internal mobility as much as candidates do. There’s still some nervousness that your manager may perceive your desire to move as a negative thing,” remarked a roundtable delegate.

Many employers are pushing new mobility programmes designed to neutralise managerial resistance. One large bank, for example, has an IT system which automatically ‘opts in’ all employees (with at least six months’ tenure) as being open to relocation, allowing in-house recruiters in any office around the world to contact them. The majority have chosen to stay in the scheme.

Another firm has a dedicated internal mobility person in every local HR team. “The message is that if you don’t feel uncomfortable approaching your hiring manager, then call your internal recruiter. We must all create an internal mobility culture,” said the bank’s representative.


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