If you’re looking for a finance job in Singapore or Hong Kong your search is unlikely to be entirely straight forward. We’re heading into the fourth quarter – a time when banks batten down the hatches before unleashing a rush of new hiring when budgets begin again next year.
But people doing certain banking and finance jobs in Asia will still have a much easier time finding employment than their counterparts in less sought-after sectors. We’ve identified nine functions where vacancies currently exceed the supply of candidates – if you work in any of them, start submitting your CV and expect rapid responses.
Demand for product marketing candidates has soared in Asia this year as asset managers expand their teams, says Karen Yap, an associate director at Profile Search & Selection in Singapore. “Global asset management companies are pushing their wholesale/retail business within the region. And as private wealth grows, many firms see effective product marketing as key to wooing high-net-worth clients and as a collaborative tool with intermediaries,” says Yap. Vacancies exceed candidates, she adds. “The most sought-after people have investment writing experience and have driven marketing projects. The pool for this hybrid experience is small because the majority either come solely from an investment writing background, without any marketing know-how, or vice versa.”
Another hot buy-side role. “There are more jobs than candidates in Asia, and there’s a certain amount of turnover so the employment market remains liquid,” says Richard Aldridge, a director at recruitment company Black Swan Group in Singapore. “Hedge funds, investment managers and investment banks will always want to pull from a similar experienced background, but there isn’t much depth to the talent market in Asia, so they may reach out to strong operations candidates or even strong graduates.”
IT audit represents a potentially straight forward post-qualification route from a Big Four accounting firm into to a bank because you won’t encounter much competition from other candidates. “We tend to find people shying away from IT audit as they feel they need to be particularly technically minded – in some cases this is true but in a lot of cases banks in Asia are now being more open minded,” says Aldridge. “Some delineations within IT audit, for instance application audit, don’t demand a technical IT background – it’s more about the application of the audit methodology.”
If you have expertise defending banks from cyber-attacks, you are in a strong position in the job market in Singapore and Hong Kong right now. There has been a “huge surge” in the past year for senior cybersecurity specialists at banks in Asia, says Roger Olofsson, head of technology at recruiters Charterhouse. “As the barriers to entry for cybercrime decrease due to easier access to advanced technology, the demand for cybersecurity professionals will continue to be strong,” he adds. “It’s not just about ensuring business continuity and meeting audit and regulatory requirements – any breach in cybersecurity causes major damage to a bank’s reputational risk.”
There aren’t enough candidates with banking-sector digital marketing experience, so banks are now also hiring from marketing agencies and technology companies, says Patricia Tan, head of sales and marketing at Charterhouse. “Many banks in Asia have recently increased headcount in digital marketing as more customers, both retail and corporate, adopt technology for their daily financial services,” she says. “Banks are looking to better understand their online customer market share and to be more agile in adapting to new approaches to develop their online customers.”
Jobs are abundant in Singapore and Hong Kong across almost all areas of compliance, but a particular new skills shortage is now emerging. “With Singapore often being a bank’s regional hub for dealing with cross-border transactions, there is an increased focus on regional compliance teams. This has driven demand for candidates with experience in regional compliance work,” says Lim Chaileng, associate director, banking and financial services, at recruiters Randstad in Singapore. “In compliance there’s also a high turnover rate which means that banks often urgently require replacements in order to meet the intense deadlines these roles demand.”
The relentless expansion of transactional banking in Asia means banks are still struggling to find candidates – especially in the trade-finance sub-sector. “Hiring managers in trade finance are seeking middle to senior-level candidates who can understand the end-to-end process of trade finance and cover all products,” says Evelyn Lee, manager, financial services, at recruitment firm Robert Walters in Singapore. “The challenge is in finding people who can perform in all functions of trade finance. Those who can are highly sought after.”
Specialist skills are also sought after in trade finance. “Demand for commodity-focused trade finance professionals at a manager level is high, with banks aggressively pursuing heads of trade finance who come from a commodities background, due to a large amount of their revenue being trade related,” say Sidhant Sibal, a financial services consultant at recruiters Hudson in Hong Kong. “Banks are also looking to add staff across all levels within trade risk and control functions,” adds colleague Max Fieldgrass. “The high volume of roles available means intense competition is unlikely for the foreseeable future.”
Internal auditors can still move from firm to firm in Asia with relative ease as banks are nowhere near to solving the long-standing skill shortages afflicting the function. “They continue to be in demand, driven by ever higher standards of corporate governance,” says Stella Tang, managing director of recruiters Robert Half in Singapore. Besides technical and corporate governance skills, banks increasingly want internal auditors who can communicate effectively and “sensitively” with the rest of the business, explains Tang. “Auditors are not investigators – they need to listen and understand how their behaviour impacts on people so it doesn’t negatively impact morale and performance.”