Do you want to work in a banking job in Asia that’s causing headaches for headhunters? Do you want to be so sought after that recruiters will do almost anything to get you a job interview?
We’ve asked several recruiters in Singapore and Hong Kong to reveal the roles that they’ve found most difficult to fill in recent months. If you work in one of these fields, consider yourself in demand.
“These roles are hard to fill – there’s a huge lack of high-level exchange-connectivity developers with C++ and kdb programming skills,” says Nick Wells, a director at search firm Webber Chase in Singapore. “And most of the good ones rapidly progress into managerial roles as they feel it moves them away from ‘IT’, leaving a shortage of strong candidates with sufficient coding skills.”
“In eFX and electronic equities, quantitative strategists are very scarce when recruiting for banks in Asia,” says Wells. “Those with any prop-trading experience have already been picked up by hedge funds, who often offer them percentage payouts.”
“One of the toughest roles I’ve worked on recently was an internal consultant within a bank, requiring a management consulting background, excellent interpersonal skills and strong industry knowledge,” says Samantha Ding, a managing consultant at recruiters Greythorn in Singapore. “Banks are forced to look outside Singapore and outside the top management consulting firms for candidates. Salary is a big hurdle as consulting candidates generally have to accept less money if they join a bank.”
Most private banks in Asia are beefing up their middle offices, but when new regulatory teams are set up from scratch the hiring process is particularly tedious. “I was helping a private bank fill a role leading a new team to perform anti-fraud checks,” says Bien Law, a senior consultant at recruiters Marks Sattin Banking in Singapore. “The job was difficult as it required someone with private banking and fraud expertise, projects experience setting up a new department, and the ability to accept the transition into an operational function once their team was up and running.”
“I worked for a global-bank client in Singapore looking for a candidate to act as the interface between the bank and the government,” says Clem Cull, a director at LMA Recruitment in Singapore. “The ideal candidate was expected to have worked in the public sector and then moved into banking – a challenging combination. Another key criteria was the ability to talk through capitalisation scenarios with both senior government officials and regulators. But I’m now seeing similar roles crop up at other banks.”
“There’s recently been a growing need for data scientists at banks in Asia and these roles are hard to fill because this profession is relatively new in the region,” says Vince Natteri, a director at search firm Pinpoint Asia in Hong Kong. “It's a job by itself now whereas in the past it was just a small part of someone's role, so it's hard to find candidates who've ‘been there, done that’ to the level and intensity that banks now require.”
Banks in Asia are building in AB&C, creating a growing need for specialist staff rather than financial-crime generalists, says Lim Chaileng, associate director, banking and financial services at recruiters Randstad in Singapore. “The challenge is that not many people who’ve had some AB&C exposure at banks now want to become a pure specialist. We’ve had to look at people from law firms and consultancy firms, but few of them have direct banking AB&C experience and some don’t understand how financial institutions work.”
It’s a skill shortage within a skill shortage – banks in Asia are clamouring for internal auditors specifically for their global markets divisions. “The internal audit function is becoming more and more specialised and the demand for this skillset outweighs the supply of auditors who have in-depth markets exposure, such as experienced AVPs and VPs who can add immediate value,” says Lim.
It’s tough enough hiring in compliance at the best of times – but it’s even harder when banks demand compliance professionals who are also qualified auditors. “Many of the larger banks in Asia have been building out assurance teams who sit functionally within compliance and provide a second-line-of-defence audit of key compliance controls,” says Duncan McKenzie, a senior consultant at recruiters Astbury Marsden in Singapore.
As we reported last week, asset managers in Hong Kong are looking for compliance experts to help ensure they meet the regulatory requirements of a new mutual fund recognition scheme with China that’s launching on July 1. This is only adding to a broader talent shortage of compliance professionals with buy-side experience in Asia, says Suan Wei Yeo, a director at Profile Search & Selection in Singapore. “The demand for experienced, relevant candidates currently far outstrips supply.”