Singapore banks expect hiring slowdown to last all year

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Singapore banks expect hiring slowdown to last all year

More than a third of banks and other financial institutions in Singapore have already slowed down their hiring in response to Covid-19, and more expect to over the rest of the year, according to a new survey by recruiters Morgan McKinley.

About 38% of hiring managers and HR professionals in the finance sector say they have slowed down hiring this quarter. This is in line with anecdotal evidence from recruiters over the past two months, who trace the slowdown back to 7 February, when the Singapore government stepped up its ‘DORSCON’ disease risk assessment to orange level and began introducing new precautionary measures to stem the spread of Covid-19.

Back in early February, we reported that the logistics of moving interviews to video at short notice were causing postponements. These have been exacerbated now because final-round interviews (which typically still take place face-to-face) are hard to organise due to managers working from home.

Moreover, if the job you’re applying for isn’t deemed business-critical, you should expect the hiring process to take a lot longer than normal as banks prioritise their most urgent vacancies. Angela Kuek, director of search firm Meyer Consulting in Singapore, says the speed of hiring “slowed considerably” in March. “We’re experiencing more delays between interview arrangements and shortlist decisions. Banks are focusing on core business activities and hiring plans have slipped a few notches in importance,” she adds.

In the Morgan McKinley report, which was based on more than 500 responses, 26% of those surveyed say the coronavirus outbreak has not impacted hiring, while 29% have already instigated a freeze. It is likely that the smaller and/or non-bank financial institutions are leading these recruitment freezes – several banks in Asia recently told us they have not yet gone down this path.

A looming recession in Singapore and fears that local banks may face balance sheet pressures mean the hiring outlook for the rest of 2020 is uncertain. However, the survey provides insights into current expectations. Notably, 57% of respondents believe their hiring will slow down over the next nine months (up from 38% who’ve already experienced a slowdown), while just 7% say recruitment will remain unaffected by Covid-19.

But while the finance job market in Singapore is likely to worsen, additional hiring freezes are not expected to be part of the deterioration – 27% say they are on the cards (a lower proportion than the 29% who now have them in place). “Encouragingly, many respondents feel they will only slow their hiring for the rest of 2020, as opposed to freezing it, which is positive for the sector,” says Gurj Sandhu, managing director of Morgan McKinley in Singapore.

Photo by Jen Theodore on Unsplash

Have a confidential story, tip, or comment you’d like to share? Email: smortlock@efinancialcareers.com or Telegram: @simonmortlock

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