Offshoring may not be as bad as it was three or four years ago, but global banks are continuing to shift back-office jobs from Singapore and Hong Kong to India, the Philippines and other low-cost markets elsewhere in Asia.
Operations staff still based in Singapore and Hong Kong are understandably nervous, but they do still have job options in their local finance sectors. Here’s how to beat offshoring and keep your career alive.
Take on regulatory work
Getting regulatory experience under your belt while working in operations gives you a head start when applying internally for a move into a compliance job (governance functions are generally staying put in Singapore and Hong Kong). “For example, I’ve worked on a project requiring me to analyse and enhance our back-office system based on local Singapore regulatory requirements,” says an operations manager at a UK bank in Singapore.
Show a new skill set
Securing a transfer to the middle-office doesn’t just depend on how many regulatory projects you have on your CV – you must also show you have the required hard and soft skills to cut it in compliance, says Gary Lai, managing director at recruiters Charterhouse Partnership. In particular, you must provide examples of analytical and stakeholder management skills. If you don’t prove that you can influence and challenge the business, the hiring manager in your compliance team won’t take you on.
Tech up your resume
“To be invaluable in operations these days, you really need to upgrade your IT skills because banks prefer candidates with good IT knowledge to contribute to automation projects,” says a Singapore operations employee.
Become a change manager
Top-performing operations employees in Hong Kong and Singapore can actually benefit from offshoring by becoming change managers, overseeing offshoring and other back-office projects. Some of these roles are on a contract basis, however. “Many banks have and will continue to require change management skill sets,” says Lai.
Transfer into wealth management
As a rule of thumb, operations jobs supporting investment and corporate banking are most vulnerable to offshoring away from Hong Kong and Singapore. By contrast, fewer back-office jobs are disappearing in wealth management. “In Singapore local law requires client information to be handled locally in wealth management,” says the operations manager from the UK bank.
Internal audit isn’t out of the question
You don’t need to be a Big Four auditor to break into the stable (and predominately middle-office) sector of internal audit. Banks are hiring so-called 'subject matter experts', including operations staff, into their audit teams. “But as an ops candidate, you will need to illustrate your understanding of internal control processes,” says a back-office recruiter at a US bank in Singapore.
Make time for networking
Moving into internal audit or any new department will be much easier if you already know the senior players there. “A good network with other managers is critical should you feel vulnerable in your job as they might proactively help you secure a place in their team,” says the operations employee in Singapore.
Be in a 'safe' back-office job
Some back-office roles are safer than others. If you’re determined to stay in operations, make sure you’re working in a job which is among the least likely to be moved overseas. “Either work in a controls-focused role – such as KYC/AML/onboarding – or a front-office facing position like trade support or desk assistant,” says Grant Torrens, regional director at recruiters Hays in Singapore. “These are less likely to be offshored because of the need to maintain a quality, localised service. Avoid transactional or process-orientated jobs.”
Try a Singaporean bank
If there’s really no hope of staying put or being transferred at your current firm, start looking for a new employer now. You should be flexibility in your job search, says recruiter Farida Charania. In Singapore, the domestic banks are carrying out far less offshoring than global institutions are, for example. Small local buy-side firms are another alternative. “Generally they only have front-office branches in other countries, so all the operations work is still done locally,” she adds.
Have a confidential story, tip, or comment you’d like to share? Email: email@example.com or Telegram: @simonmortlock
We are on Telegram! Join us now
Image credit: David Hagerman, Getty