It hasn’t been a boom year so far for banking jobs in Hong Kong and Singapore. Recruitment is focused on replacing staff who’ve left, while some firms – Standard Chartered, CIMB and Goldman Sachs among them – have been cutting investment banking jobs.
There are some outliers though – banks that are creating new positions as they grow certain departments in Asia. If you’re looking for a new banking job in the region, here’s our pick of some of the firms that are actually adding headcount.
Two finance recruiters in Singapore tell us that they are working on more Singapore-based front-office vacancies for RHB’s investment bank. This follows an announcement earlier this month from Mike Chan, RHB investment bank managing director, that his firm is to “scale up Singapore aggressively”, making the city state its treasury hub for regional fixed income, equities, FX, sales and trading, as well for originating regional business. The recruiters also say RHB is on the radar of RBS traders looking for another employer as the British bank makes massive job cuts in Singapore.
The US bank began a hiring campaign last year to add 100 new technologists to its IT hub in Singapore to help with a roll-out of lean and agile development models across its core processing unit. J.P. Morgan continues to hire in fintech in the city state. “It’s still insourcing tech roles, Java developers in particular. It’s one of the only banks to be adding significant IT headcount here,” says an operations and IT recruiter in Singapore. If you can’t get a fintech job at J.P. Morgan, try Avaloq – one of the outsourcing companies expanding its operations in the city state.
Back in January, we reported that Evercore would be one of the most active recruiters among boutiques banks in Asia this year. Now we know that its expansion centres around its new Singapore office, where it plans to take it M&A headcount to about 20 by December, up from 11 currently. The small-scale but senior-level hiring comes as an increasing number of Asian bankers become more willing to forge careers at boutiques. “Boutiques can give them the chance to go a notch up – most commonly from associate to VP – quicker than they would at a larger firm,” says Stanley Teo, a director at Profile Search and Selection in Singapore. This is just as well for Evercore, which ranked only 45th among advisers on announced mergers in Southeast Asia last year, according to Bloomberg.
It’s another booming boutique – albeit being wealth, not advisory, focused. The firm grew its headcount of relationship managers (RMs) in Asia by 38% last year (from 59 to 80 sales staff) – a higher percentage than any rival, according to Asian Private Banker. LGT, along with Pictet and EFG, is also expected to expand this year, say headhunters. “I’m seeing more bankers become open to smaller, more flexible houses,” says Rahul Sen, head of private wealth management at search firm The Omerta Group in Singapore. “Some senior bankers are tired of the rigidity and politics of the big private banks. Bankers are keen to move to firms that are more flexible and still have a reasonably good product platform.”
At the other end of the private-banking size spectrum to LGT, Credit Suisse’s Asian headcount is also expanding. As we reported last week, Tidjane Thiam’s appointment as the Swiss bank's next CEO means it is expected to increase its already aggressive hiring of RMs in Hong Kong and Singapore. The firm already has 490 of them in Asia, although this is well short of the 1,186 employed by UBS. “But it’s always a struggle to find senior RMs to join Credit Suisse, despite their good brand, platform etc,” a wealth management headhunter in Singapore told us. “So many of their clients already bank with CS, so there’s no incentive to move – it’s a headache.”
While UBS is (as always) growing is private bank in Singapore and Hong Kong, it is also adding talent in China. In December the China Banking Regulatory Commission relaxed controls over market access for foreign banks. “And since then we’ve seen some increases in hiring, in particularly from UBS, an expansionist foreign firm in China who’s opening new branches with fewer conditions,” says a Shanghai headhunter who asked not to be named. “It’s mainly operations and risk vacancies with some in wealth management and asset management.”
Singapore’s three local banks, DBS, UOB and OCBC, continue to add headcount across most departments. But it’s in the steady-revenue sector of transaction banking that recruitment is fiercest. UOB, for example, announced late last year that recent hires had taken its transaction banking headcount to 250. “It has hired people, both on cash and trade side, from J.P. Morgan, Standard Chartered and RBS,” Anamika Singh, a principal consultant at recruitment firm Charterhouse Partnership in Singapore, told us at the time. “This year UOB is still hiring to capture lucrative revenues in transaction banking and candidates are very open to applying to local banks,” adds a recruiter who specialises in transaction banking.
The Japanese bank’s Singaporean hiring spree, which began September, is far from over and is still centred on...transaction banking. Mizuho plans to increase its 600-strong Singaporean headcount by 50%, taking on another 300 people in the next two to four years. It has already opened a new transaction banking unit in Singapore last year and moved into plush new premises in the city’s Asia Square development. “If you can adapt to Japanese corporate culture then it’s an attractive, expansionist firm and you get to be part of a new department in Singapore – help build it from the ground up,” says the transaction banking recruiter.