The Covid-19 pandemic has triggered a rise in enquiries from overseas-based finance professionals searching for work back home, say headhunters. But so far not that many people have actually been able to relocate.
“We’ve definitely seen a recent increase in Singaporeans who are looking to return, especially from the countries that have had the most impact from the Covid 19 virus,” says Christina Ng, managing director of LMA Recruitment, referring to markets like the US and UK.
While Singapore continues to register community spread of the virus, it has so far fared better during the crisis than many Western countries. The Republic’s death rate per million people stands at four, while in the UK and US it is 656 and 407, respectively.
Marie Tay, managing director of The Resolute Hunter, says the amount of returnee enquiries she is receiving is “considerably” higher than before the coronavirus outbreak. She also noticed a spike in numbers after Singapore entered phase two of its economic reopening plan on 19 June. Singaporean finance professionals in Hong Kong have been getting in touch with Tay in recent weeks, suggesting that the territory’s political turmoil – not just Covid-19 – is motivating candidates to consider moves.
While there is a pent-up potential supply of returnees, there has only been a “marginal” increase in finance professionals landing jobs back home. Ng says her firm has “successfully placed some of them already due to the outreach that we’ve done globally”. But generally speaking, relocations have been restricted by “insufficient job opportunities during the last quarter” in Singapore, says Gary Lai, managing director at Charterhouse Partnership.
In the finance sector at least, job losses in London, New York and Hong Kong have been limited, so experienced Singaporean banking professionals have not yet been compelled to leave these cities because they are unemployed, says Lai. This also helps to explain why the rise in enquiries has not yet led to a similar rise in moves.
Singaporeans currently working in the finance sector overseas will find themselves in high demand if they are technology professionals. As we have been reporting over recent weeks, banks – including DBS, Standard Chartered and OCBC – are increasing their tech headcounts as usage of their digital platforms surges during the pandemic. The granting of licences by December to run up to five new digital banks in Singapore will further drive hiring in tech, says Ng from LMA. Returnees who are skilled in DevOps, data, cloud, cyber security, and project management are already in demand, she adds.
It’s a different story for Singaporean students graduating from foreign universities. A “lot more” of them will be returning home because they will struggle to find work in the countries they are studying in, says Angela Kuek, director of search firm Meyer Consulting. But demand for graduates is also “soft” even in Singapore, and many returning young people will have to take contract roles, adds Kuek.
Away from the immediate demand in technology, returnees will be sought after when the job market in Singapore recovers from the impact of the pandemic, which is likely to be next year. “Overseas experience for a Singaporean in Hong Kong, London and New York will always be beneficial and sought after within financial services,” says Richard Aldridge, a director at Black Swan Group. “Returning candidates who bring tested overseas and regional experience will definitely be in high demand, especially for front-office positions,” adds Tay from The Resolute Hunter.
Photo by Goh Rhy Yan on Unsplash
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