The economy may be flat-lining and firms may be more inclined to fire than hire, but it’s not all bad news in the Singapore banking job market.
What do you need to know about the state of recruitment in the Republic if you’re looking for a new role right now?
We spoke with several experts to find out.
1. Forget hiring freezes
While finance recruiters agree that there are fewer jobs on their books than 12 months ago, they also say banks have trimmed rather than stopped their hiring. “The current job market is nowhere near a doom and gloom scenario – there are no headcount freezes and banks can still typically hire, at least for replacement positions,” says Gary Lai, Southeast Asia managing director at recruiters Charterhouse Partnership.
2. Hiring is taking longer
Because the job market is less buoyant than last year, most banks are taking more time to hire – the interview processes can drag on for up to four months, says Lai. “But while banks are taking longer on the recruitment process to make sure they find the right candidates, they also risk losing top people to competing firms,” says Matthieu Imbert-Bouchard, managing director of recruitment company Robert Half in Singapore.
3. Candidates prefer “strong” SG-focused banks
Large local headcount reductions at the likes of Barclays and RBS mean candidates are “gravitating towards banks with continued strong Singapore operations”, says Lai. These include the three local banks – DBS, OCBC and UOB – and Standard Chartered, which remains a large recruiter in Singapore despite recent cuts to its management ranks. Job seekers are also showing a preference for Citi, J.P. Morgan and HSBC, adds Lai.
4. Electronic trading is hot
“There’s significant growth across the electronic trading area in Singapore, with solid demand for quantitative eFX specialists across the sell-side, buy-side, vendors and market makers,” says Nick Wells, managing partner of headhunters NewtonCHASE. “FX is an expanding space in Asian markets and there’s expansion in analytics, trading, portfolio management, execution, trading technology and business development.”
5. Business risk is the new black
Banks in Singapore are always hiring in risk management, but they’ve recently been turning their attention to the specialist field of business risk to manage uncertainty in profits and the danger of losses. “There’s certainly been a shift towards this area in the last six months across both investment banking and private wealth,” says Richard Aldridge, a director at recruitment company Black Swan Group in Singapore. “But candidates need excellent communication skills so that they can enhance the business’s view of the risk function.”
6. Contracting takes off beyond IT
“There’s been a cultural shift in attitude among both local and expat candidates when it comes to considering contract jobs, and this isn’t just confined to technology roles,” says James Incles, Singapore group country director at recruiters iKas International. “And there’s a notable increase in contract positions in the finance and risk functions. Bank want to manage costs and project timelines, while candidates realise there’s now little difference between a 12-month contract and a permanent position in terms of job security.”
7. Back-office people are managing to move
As operations offshoring continues, the elite performers among Singapore’s back-office ranks are increasingly being drafted into risk and compliance functions. “They’re seen as relevant candidates due to their familiarity with day-to-day operations, so they supplement existing governance staff who tend to take a ‘macro-monitor’ perspective,” says Pan Zaixian general manager of recruiters Kerry Consulting in Singapore. “However, they must also come with a risk and controls-driven mindset or they won’t be effective in this new job scope.”
8. The unemployed get realistic
Singapore banking suffered job cuts mainly in the first half of the year and candidates who are still unemployed are finally beginning to get more realistic about their options. “For example, they’re now prepared to consider moving for the same salary or even take a pay cut of between 5% and 10%,” says Lai from Charterhouse.
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