The employment market for experienced risk management professionals in Singapore and Hong Kong remains comparatively buoyant.
But for graduates, clinching a junior risk job is far from straightforward.
“Risk has historically been challenging to get into due to its highly technical requirements, although banks in Asia are now becoming slightly more willing to take on entry-level candidates,” says Lynne Roeder, managing director of recruiters Hays in Singapore.
How can you break into risk management in Asia? Here are a few options.
As in other regions, whatever methods banks in Asia use to recruit in risk, they all want one thing: strong academic results in highly numerate subjects, including banking, finance and accounting (obviously) as well as statistics, maths, physics and engineering. “Qualifications are very important for risk roles. Hiring managers usually look for more quantitative backgrounds, and doing a Master’s degree in a subject like financial engineering or applied finance can also help,” says Sherry Zerh, an associate director at search firm Kerry Consulting in Singapore.
Specialist risk management internships are rare in Asia, but if you secure one and perform well, they can provide a near-certain route into a full-time graduate job. Credit Suisse is hiring risk interns in Singapore for the summer of 2018, while J.P. Morgan and UBS are doing so in both Singapore and Hong Kong.
If you haven’t done a risk internship at one of the above banks, it’s very unlikely that you will be hired straight into a risk team as a graduate. But each year there are sometimes exceptions, so it’s worth checking banks’ careers sites. UBS, for example, wants graduates in Hong Kong and Singapore for 2018 group risk control roles.
While specialist programmes are thin on the ground in Asia, it’s quite common to work in a risk team as a rotation during a generalist graduate traineeship. This gives you a few weeks to see if a risk role is really for you and to impress the bosses enough that they want to hire you when your training is over. Graduates on Standard Chartered’s one-year financial markets international graduate programme, for example, spend one month in both operational and credit risk before being let lose in the front office.
Working in another part of the bank at analyst level won’t necessarily rule you out of landing a risk role as an associate or VP. Skill shortages continue to afflict risk management teams at banks in Singapore and Hong Kong, so they are sometimes open to hiring people from other job functions. “A number of internal auditors and product controllers have transitioned into operational risk positions jobs recently,” says Chris Jackson, director of Pure Search in Hong Kong. “And even some traders have been successfully moved into market risk roles over time.”
In credit risk, an alternative way into your first role at a bank is to work at the Big Four as a graduate. “Interestingly in Singapore, we’re seeing some banks hiring external auditors for junior credit-risk positions. Those with a strong grasp of the credit cycle are preferred,” says Zerh from Kerry Consulting.
Although risk offers comparatively bountiful job opportunities in Singapore and Hong Kong, it’s best to stick with the same bank for at least two years after the end of your graduate training (and to complete the FRM qualification). “Aside from training programmes, I seldom see junior risk management roles as candidates need to accumulate some years of experience – be it in a product, function or framework – to provide sound risk management advice,” says Zerh.
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