If you want a stable job in banking, don’t work as a product controller in Singapore, especially in a junior- or mid-level role at a global bank.
Formerly in demand as international banks ramped up the function in the Asian city state, product-control jobs are now fast disappearing to India and the Philippines – countries where analysts and associates earn a lot less than in expensive Singapore.
“Recruiters used to spend hours headhunting product controllers from around the world to feed the insatiable appetite in Singapore from banks offshoring roles from the US and Europe,” said Neil Dyball, general manager, Singapore, at recruiters Talent2.
In the past two years, however, Singapore has itself fallen victim to offshoring – a trend which shows no signs or abating and is forcing many Singapore-based product controllers to abandon the banking sector.
Pay hikes, caused by historical competition for talent and the need to boost base salaries to offset shrinking bonuses, have made it expensive to locate large product-control teams in Singapore, Dyball said. Another recruiter in Singapore, who asked not to be named, said the following banks are among the chief architects of offshoring:
• Credit Suisse: jobs to Pune, India
• Barclays: Noida and Chennai, India
• Deutche Bank: Manila, Philippines
• Morgan Stanley: Mumbai, India
• RBS: Gurgaon, India
• Standard Chartered: Chennai
The new wave of offshoring has shifted the product-control recruitment boom to India. “Product controllers across all asset classes and levels are in demand here across the finance, risk and governance areas,” said Nilay Khandelwal, director of Michael Page in India.
But Singapore-based product controllers almost never relocate to India. Junior product controllers earn between about US$40k and $55k a year in Singapore, while their peers in India receive $32k to $47k, according to figures from Michael Page. The range for the Philippines is $7.5k to $11.5k, Dyball said.
Product controllers who remain employed in Singapore now often live in fear of redundancy. “Company morale becomes unmanageable when there are constant restructures followed by a large turnover of staff,” Dyball said.
Some aren’t waiting for the axe to fall and are moving into other banking roles – in particular audit, compliance, finance and change management – while others are quitting banking for finance jobs in the corporate sector, said Darren Hutchinson-Hill, managing director of recruitment agency Glenhill Group in Singapore. Dyball added: “The majority are looking to reinvent their careers – going to another investment bank with the promise offshoring is uninspiring. There are now some very talented PC professionals on the job market who have experience managing challenging stakeholders and large teams.”
How to avoid offshoring
While production work at the junior to mid-levels continues to be offshored from Singapore, senior product-control jobs demanding quantitative and technical skills – such as valuations and independent price verification – remain sought after, according to Hutchinson-Hill. Moreover, the three Singapore-headquartered banks – DBS, OCBC and UOB – are keeping their product-control roles on the island.
Product controllers could also try contracting, an option that global banks are increasingly using to fill short-term needs. “But unfortunately, I think we will still see more offshoring in the future. As costs continue to rise in Singapore, other locations are becoming more attractive to the banks,” Hutchinson-Hill said.