Private banks in Singapore are breathing life into a generally dull fintech job market in Singapore, although the skills they are demanding can make it tricky for IT professionals to join their ranks.
As private banks take on more relationship managers to serve rich clients in Asia, the world’s fastest growing region for private wealth, they also increasingly need IT experts to enhance data security, ensure regulatory compliance and give their products a competitive advantage.
Renato de Guzman, CEO of Bank of Singapore, OCBC's wealth unit, said earlier this month that his headcount in IT and operations had grown faster than in the front office over the past two years.
Samantha Ding, a managing consultant at recruiters Greythorn in Singapore, says that at her firm IT vacancies from private banks currently exceed those from investment banks, despite smaller team sizes in the former. “Other than stepping up on regulatory-related IT requirements, private banks are also strengthening their core banking systems and investing in digital channels for clients,” she says.
“Technology hiring in Singapore’s private banking sector has been one of the busiest areas this year, with consistent demand for candidates,” adds Chris Mead, regional director of recruitment firm Hays in Singapore. He says three broad trends are driving the job market:
1) Digital channels
Nearly two-thirds of the world’s high-net-worth individuals expect to manage most or all of their wealth digitally within five years and would consider switching to firms that provide such services, according to a June report from Capgemini and RBC. Credit Suisse is launching a "Digital Private Bank" in Asia Pacific, offering portfolio management tools, customised market information and social networking for clients, and is currently hiring Singapore-based programme managers to help run it. “At the risk of being left behind, private banks are innovating and hiring in this space and there is a lot of competition for candidates with both technical skills and industry experience,” says Mead.
2) Data management and cyber security
With client confidentiality critical to their business, private banks have been taking on data management and cyber security professionals in Asia to ensure their IT systems are robust and customers are protected. The hiring comes in the wake of a security breach at Standard Chartered in Singapore last December when 647 private banking customers had their data stolen. “Cyber security and data protection are key areas due to increasing regulation – such as the Personal Data Protection Act in Singapore – and customer concerns about data use,” says Mead. “As the amount of data gathered by private banks increases, there is more focus on data management policies and more hiring of data specialists.”
3) CRM and analytics
“Private banking clients are more technology savvy than ever. They require access to up-to-date information, and private banks are utilising big data and analytics to provide tailored recommendations to clients. Sophisticated CRM platforms and user-friendly interfaces are essential to keeping customers informed about the status of their portfolios,” says Mead.
Prior private banking experience is not always necessary. “Private banks want the same core skills as their retail and investment counterparts: solid technical experience, good communication skills and the ability to think pragmatically to solve problems,” explains Mead. “Candidates with retail or investment banking experience are deemed suitable for CRM and analytics roles, for example, as are those from customer-heavy organisations like telecoms and retail.”
“Candidates with project experience in handling and processing large amounts of data and skills in data extraction may also be relevant for private banking roles,” adds Ding from Greythorn.
For more technical jobs, however, there are significant differences between private banking and investment banking. “Private banking systems tend to be more JEE based whereas IB systems are more Core Java based,” explains Vince Natteri, director of recruitment firm Pinpoint Asia.
He adds: “PB systems might not be as intensive as IB systems – usually you don't see requests for high-frequency/low-latency systems on the PB side, for example – meaning the technical challenges are different. PB systems usually interact with several other upstream/downstream ones, so a candidate with a broader tech skill-set will be a better fit.
“On the IB side, you tend to find specialists – equities IT guys, derivatives guys etc – whereas in PB the product scope is wider but candidates usually don't need such strong experience in one asset class only. In PB you may find someone with a CFA who has knowledge of multiple asset classes but isn't necessarily a specialist.”
Many fintech jobs in private banking also demand experience of third-party wealth management platforms such as Avaloq and Temenos T24, says Ding. “Business-facing technology roles require candidates who understand the uniqueness of a private bank’s client needs and its business model,” she adds.
Avaloq expertise is proving particularly tricky to find in Asia. “As many international banks have implemented Avaloq, there is a shortage of candidates who can maintain and enhance these systems and private banks are increasingly looking overseas or to consulting partners for a supply of talent,” explain Mead.
Last month Deutsche Bank announced it was outsourcing its Singapore wealth management back-office operations to Avaloq’s processing centre in the city state.