Banking sector candidates in Singapore and Hong Kong are notorious for their job-hopping tendencies, and none more so than technology professionals, because of strong demand for their skills over the past few years. But as the two Asian financial hubs reel from the recessionary impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and Hong Kong faces renewed political turmoil, technologists are becoming more conservative about taking new jobs, say recruiters who are trying hard to convince them to move.
“There’s been an increase in tech professionals favouring job security over the chance of a new role,” says Daniel Warwick, Singapore managing director at Eames Consulting Group. The largest pool of available candidates in the job market are those forced to look for work because they have lost their jobs, or their contracts have ended.
“Talent mobility in banking technology this year is less than last year, with people less willing to move and wanting stability in their current roles,” says Hong Kong-based Robert Sheffield, managing director for Greater China at Morgan McKinley.
Back in 2019, candidates and employers were both more flexible during the hiring process. In the current more cautious job market, however, candidates are motivated to switch employers only if their salary expectations are met and their skills and experiences are an exact match to the job requirements, says Robbert Pauli, senior manager of technology at Randstad in Hong Kong.
Technology recruitment, driven by surging usage of banks’ online platforms during the pandemic, is a comparative bright spot in Asian banking. As we’ve previously reported, hot jobs in tech include cyber security, cloud engineering, and UX/UI. But while tech roles may be more in demand than almost all others in banking right now, hiring levels in the function are still down on last year in Hong Kong and Singapore.
“Banks aren’t hiring as much in tech, and even when they do, talent is less willing to move given the global uncertainty – this essentially means there are issues on both the demand and supply sides,” says Zulkifli Azman, a director at Space Executive in Singapore.
“Recruitment is definitely slower compared to last year,” adds Warwick. “Almost all hires are being scrutinised by banks and only approved if really deemed pivotal – this is mirrored in extra layers of sign-off required to release job offers,” he says.
When a tech vacancy arises, banks are putting extra effort into first determining whether it can be filled by someone else in the team or by a transfer from another part of the bank, says Sheffield. And when banks do decide to hire from the market, they are “trying to make more use of their internal talent acquisition teams and avoid recruitment agency spend,” says Adam Davies, associate director at recruiters iKas International in Singapore.
As we reported last month, banks are also using more tech contractors if they need to fill urgent jobs without adding to their full-time payrolls. “A number of our banking clients are not always able to get permanent headcount sign-off, so we’re seeing a dramatic increase in technology roles on contract,” says Bethan Howell, head of quantitative research and trading technology at Selby Jennings in Hong Kong. “Contract roles have traditionally been a slightly less popular option for mid/senior hiring in Asia, but that’s really changed over the past three months,” she adds.
It’s generally more straightforward to get a technology job at an Asia-focused bank as many global banks are only making critical hires in Hong Kong and Singapore, says Pauli from Randstad. DBS, for example, has committed to taking on 360 new technologists in Singapore by the end of the year. Standard Chartered’s 2020 hiring is focused on tech.
In Hong Kong, the eight new virtual banks are also hiring technologists, and are an attractive option for candidates wanting to stay in the finance sector but work for a “sexier startup”, says Sheffield from Morgan McKinley.
Photo by DDP on Unsplash
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