Banks in Singapore are finding it more difficult to recruit and retain the foreign staff who make up a large share of their junior financial-technology roles – and they are sometimes raising salaries as a result.
Junior fintech jobs are disproportionately affected by the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) – a regulation introduced in August to encourage employers to recruit more Singaporeans – because they pay under the FCF’s S$12k monthly salary threshold.
[efc_twitter text="The FCF is generally working well for banking jobs, say recruiters in Singapore"] – skill shortages aren’t extreme in most functions so banks can prioritise local hires, while work visas for senior specialists are still being approved.
Fintech is different. Despite offshoring out of Singapore in recent years, the city’s fintech workforce remains substantial (and J.P. Morgan is expanding), but it is mainly junior and mainly foreign. As we reported last year, the FCF makes it more onerous to apply for work visas for junior jobs.
“The banking IT function is heavily populated with Indian and Filipino talent because Singaporean talent just doesn’t exist in sufficient numbers, so what can banks do but apply for work visas?” says Kyle Blockley, managing partner of recruiters KS consulting in Singapore. “But most foreign IT staff earn well below $12k and this is now causing headaches – not just when securing new visas, but when visas comes up for renewal they might be rejected; it’s happened on a number of occasions recently.”
Raising salaries for junior IT staff is one way to increase the chances that Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower (MOM) will renew work visas. For example, holders of S-Passes – lower-level work visas – might see their monthly pay bumped up to above S$3.3k, the minimum threshold for the more highly-skilled Employment Pass (EP). “But the general feeling is that MOM still won’t approve an EP with a salary as low as $3.3k, so companies will pay a little more to see if they can get an approval.”
But a salary hike is no guarantee of success – salary, education and previous experience in Singapore are all crucial. “There have been times lately when banks doubled the salary in the hope this would ensure an EP for them. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t,” says Blockley. “One of my clients recently had two S-Pass holders, both from the Philippines, who needed to be transferred to an EP: one was rejected and the other accepted. Their positions were both business critical, so the firm was affected by the rejection.”
With some foreign nationals struggling to get their work permits renewed and the local workforce currently thin on the ground, recruiters say there’s a big opportunity for Singaporean graduates to step into fintech.
“[efc_twitter text="There’s huge potential for local IT grads to succeed in the Singapore banking industry"],” says Samantha Ding, managing consultant at recruiters Greythorn Banking in Singapore. “My advice to grads is to be more assertive in your job search and don’t be afraid to take on a contracting role or even a job with an IT vendor to get a head start in financial technology,” adds Ding.