Banks in Asia poach ‘cheap’ 20-somethings from rivals' graduate training programmes

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Asian banks poach ‘cheap’ 20-somethings straight from graduate programmes


Is your analyst rotation about to end in Hong Kong or Singapore? You may be more in demand than you think – and not just at your current employer. Banks are increasingly lining up to poach the people that their rivals have just spent thousands training up.

Asian cost-cutting initiatives at a number of firms – mostly recently Barclays, Deutsche Bank and Standard Chartered – have focused on culling senior staff. But recruiters still expect strong demand this year for cheaper employees, in particular analysts with about two years’ experience who don’t need training and can’t yet command high salaries.

“This is now giving junior candidates in Asia a lot more options when they have finished rotational programmes,” says Aaron Bolton, a manager at recruitment company Black Swan Group in Singapore. “Candidates from rotational schemes, who’ve covered a number of areas in the bank, are viewed more favourably by other employers right now as they have diversity of experience at a relatively early stage of their careers.”

Firms with expansion ambitions in Asia are the ones most likely to be poaching juniors once recruitment starts picking up after Chinese New Year. These include Credit Suisse and UBS (who both plan to hire hundreds of Asian investment bankers and private bankers over the next few years), says a Hong Kong headhunter who asked not to be named. J.P. Morgan and Goldman Sachs will also be among the more aggressive recruiters of juniors because they can tap their “brand prestige in Asia” to convince the best candidates to move, adds a headhunter in Singapore.

“Even junior bankers have seen first-hand the volatility in banking – the hire/fire habits – so they’re now decidedly less loyal to their current banks as a result,” says Jay Abeyasinghe, manager of banking and financial services at recruitment firm Morgan McKinley in Singapore.

Meanwhile, top-performing young corporate bankers from firms with large Asian operations (think HSBC and Standard Chartered) also have a better chance of moving into more lucrative private banking or even investment banking jobs in the coming months. “At the moment many corporate banks are affected by juniors leaving them – these people are among many staff at a junior level, so they often feel overlooked for career development,” says Gary Lai, managing director for Southeast Asia at recruiters Charterhouse Partnership. “They tend to consider moving into private or investment banking roles.”

An analyst-level employee at a large US bank in Singapore told us that her firm’s training programme will not necessarily secure her the client-facing role she wants, so this year she is considering applying to positions at other banks and in other job functions. “It will be too late to move to a client role if I leave it much longer,” she adds, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Bolton from Black Swan says banks in Asia will be poaching people from traineeships this year with the promise of exposure to functions, products or markets than they wouldn’t get by staying put. “This is a large pull factor for candidates.”

With cost a key concern, banks won’t pay exorbitant salaries but they will nearly always offer a 10% to 15% uplift to temp juniors to join them, say recruiters. “I believe the main reason for more juniors moving is simple economics – a desire to be better rewarded – particularly for above average performers,” says Ben Batten, Singapore general manager at recruiters Volt.

In Singapore in particular, young local finance professionals in demand and may be able to negotiate better salaries and job responsibilities as a result, says Bolton.  A law introduced in 2014 to encourage employers to hire more Singaporean citizens is aimed primarily at junior hiring as roles paying more than S$144k ($US100k) are exempt from its provisions.

Image credit: Jirsak, iStock, Thinkstock

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