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Six huge career problems now plaguing VPs at banks in Asia

Downhill pov view with mountain bike

Downhill pov view with mountain bike

Vice presidents at investment banks in Hong Kong and Singapore are, in theory, well placed in the current job market.

Banks continue to hand them extra work as they trim more senior jobs. And because graduate hiring in Asia was cut following the 2008 financial crisis, VPs are now comparatively hard to find.

However, headhunters say the VP candidates they are talking to this year are increasingly worried about their futures in the banking sector.

Here’s what VPs in Asia are asking recruiters, and here’s what recruiters are advising them.

Which of my key skills are becoming obsolete?

Recruiters view a lot of job descriptions so they are often quizzed by VPs about which skills are becoming popular and which are falling out of favour in their field. “The financial landscape is changing – some roles are being outsourced and are never coming back,” says Adrian Choo, a director at Lee Hecht Harrison in Singapore. “In five years’ time, even some risk management functions might be replaced by business analytics or artificial intelligence software. VPs need to constantly monitor the market to see if their skills are sustainable in the long run. You don’t want to be obsolete by your 40s.”

Can I transfer out of the back-office?

Back-office professionals who’ve reached VP level increasingly face an uncertain future as banks continue to offshore operations jobs away from Singapore and Hong Kong. “But people in product control, trade support and price verification often make excellent internal transferees into the governance world – in particular operational risk, where technical product knowledge and an understanding of internal procedures give these controllers an edge,” says Mark O’Reilly, APAC managing director at recruiters Astbury Marsden.

Should I quit banking for the corporate sector?

Expansionist Chinese companies are on the hunt for bankers to guide them through mergers and IPOs. VP bankers are now being proactive and asking recruiters about these jobs in increasing numbers, says Eunice Ng, director of search firm Avanza Consulting in Hong Kong. Interest in the corporate sector is now roughly equivalent to the traditional mid-career longing for the buy-side. But although these bankers want to share in the success of Chinese corporate expansion, Ng says improving their work-life balance is their main motivation for moving.

But do I have a sufficient safety net?

When weighing up whether to leave the finance sector, Asian bankers tend to be highly risk adverse. A big concern is often whether their savings are large enough to justify removing the iron rice bowl of a VP job. “If candidates have the personal means to allow them to pursue their passions outside of banking, I strongly endorse this choice,” says Amanda Lote, MD of headhunters Lote & Partners in Hong Kong. “I saw an IB candidate who halved his pay to join an e-commerce firm, but he was independently wealthy and said money was unimportant – he was attracted to the scalability of the business plan.”

Does my loyalty make me a salary loser?

“The market in Asia still promotes job hopping by offering fairly large salary increments every time someone moves,” says recruiter James Carss. “Those who remain loyal often get left behind on pay and by the time they reach VP they can end up with below-market salaries. This eventually causes frustration and they want to move themselves, but I’d advise them to have an open conversation with their boss prior to any job search.”

My sponsor quit – so what now?

“I meet a lot of excellent candidates who’ve been fast tracked and sponsored early on in their career but have now hit a glass ceiling as they’ve got older and become a VP,” says Carss. “Often this promotion process goes wrong if their main sponsor leaves the bank. I always advise them to realistically compare possibilities for internal career progression with any external roles available on the market.”

Image credit: oneinchpunch, Getty

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