Traditional banking skills are coming back into fashion. In both Hong Kong and Singapore, transactional banking – incorporating functions such as cash management, trade finance and custodianship – is weathering the financial storms better than more glamorous financial job functions.
“As a working capital business integral to corporate/wholesale banking, the areas of cash management, trade finance and custody/securities services are very much bread and butter transactions to corporations and institutions,” says Angela Kuek, manager, banking & financial services at recruiters Hudson in Singapore.
Kuek says transactional banking redundancies in the city state have been limited and concentrated in product development and operations functions. “For sales folks, the weak performers are eased out as part of the yearly appraisal process.”
Layoffs have been small scale in HK too, according to Tze Yong Lee, manager, banking division at Robert Walters Hong Kong. “However, we have seen some redundancies in certain banks in view of consolidation of job responsibilities to reduce costs. The non-performers will also be under tighter scrutiny as the managers will take this opportunity to ‘upgrade’ their staff,” he adds.
There are still pockets of hiring in transaction banking, primarily in front office and sales, at the mid levels (S$100k – S$150k base), says Kuek. “Banks are also open to looking at senior sales folks (S$200k+) in cash management and trade finance, bankers with strong contacts or specialised structured skills in trade,” she adds.
Lee says there is still selective hiring happening, especially those candidates with solid product knowledge and experience. “We are also seeing banks looking for senior candidates with strong sales track records and technical knowledge,” he says.
Standard Chartered is among the large commercial banks still recruiting cautiously in this sector, according to one headhunter who asked not to be named.
Demand is spread fairly equally between cash management and trade finance, says Kuek. “But the custody space is quiet at the moment, with the state of brokers/dealers and securities houses in the last six months. Custody may look up from Q2 but it’s all ‘wait and see’ for Q1.”
Should you go back to basics with your career and become a transaction banker? Let us know below.