Are you considering joining a new bank in Hong Kong or Singapore? Will you only move if the money is substantially more?
While large pay rises are rare in the current job market, there are notable expectations. We’ve asked several recruiters in Asia to reveal the functions in which elite candidates, those in the top quartile of performers in their profession, are receiving the largest salary rises. The recruiters also told us the maximum percentage increase for each job sector and we’ve averaged these out to produce the chart below.
If you’re a top performer in one of the following fields, here is the percentage rise in base pay that you should be aiming for when moving banks in Asia.
Although recruiters say pay hikes in compliance aren’t as high as last year, the function still leads our ranking, with top performers able to secure 28% increases when they change employers. Banks are still paying top dollar for candidates with experience of dealing directly with local regulators, says Daniel Warwick, managing director of search firm Eames Consulting Group in Singapore. They also want compliance professionals who can influence firm-wide decision making and build strong relationships with other departments.
You can add a nice 25% to your current salary if you’re a relationship manager with a good revenue record and client base in Singapore or Hong Kong. “These front-office revenue generators are often raised organically by banks and then headhunted by competitors at a premium,” says Sinan Atahan, head of finance and trading at search firm Spencer Ogden in Hong Kong. “HK banks and Chinese banks are competing with the Western banks not only on basic salary, but also on benefit structures.”
A simple case of strong vacancy numbers in Asia and low talent supply means banks need to offer high increments (24% in our survey) in AML, says Lay-Hoon Ng, associate director of recruiters Michael Page Financial Services in Singapore. “Candidates with a broad range of experiences – sanctions, anti-bribery and corruption – are very sought after,” adds Warwick.
Such is the demand for their services in Asia that private bankers can typically get an 8% to 10% annual pay rise at their current employer, so a firm that poaches them will need to double that, says Rahul Sen, head of private wealth management at search firm The Omerta Group in Singapore. The potential for RMs to lose clients when they move firms, however, means banks won’t risk boosting their base pay higher than about 23%.
No wonder Big Four auditors in Asia want to join the banking sector – high performers within internal audit can pick up pay increases of 23%. “And there’s now a growing trend to have audit teams focus on compliance audit – these roles are even more in demand,” says Bien Law, a senior consultant at recruitment agency Marks Sattin Banking in Singapore.
Demand for quants remains strong and the better ones can still command hefty (21% in our ranking) pay hikes. “It’s a very specialised skillset to find, especially in Asia – plus these positions are mostly front-office focused and contribute to business revenue,” says Warwick from Eames.
There are plenty of project-led roles in both banking and insurance in Singapore and Hong Kong right now, says Ben Batten, country general manager of recruitment firm Volt in Singapore. Competition for people who have that elusive mix of management and subject-matter expertise is helping to push up pay by 20%. “Candidates with experience in regulatory change projects are in particular demand now – this is a small group, so salary expectations re high,” says Samantha Ding, a managing consultant at recruiters Greythorn in Singapore.
As we’ve reported in recent months, investment bankers who can help expansionist mainland companies with listings or cross-border mergers are highly prized by banks in Hong Kong. And there aren’t many of them – hence salary rises of 20% for joining a new firm. “A-share origination bankers or H-share China-focused origination bankers are in very high demand,” says Atahan from Spencer Ogden. “In particular Mandarin speakers from the top-tiered foreign banks or the Chinese banks with strong origination exposure.”
While much fintech work has been offshored away from Singapore and Hong Kong and into lower-cost markets like Malaysia, India, China and the Philippines, Java developers focused on front–office projects are still sought after, says Ding. These top-end candidates are rewarded with big 19% pay rises, according to our survey of recruiters.
Both credit and operational risk hit the 19% mark in the chart above. “Credit analysts are highly sought after, especially in structured trade and commodity finance – a growing area for several banks in Asia,” says Yimin Lam, manager, financial services risk, at recruiters Robert Walters in Singapore. “In operational risk there’s a continued increase in first-line defence roles sitting directly with the business, particularly within private banks.”
“China equities analysts are hot at the moment and big pay increases aren’t unusual,” says Matthew Hoyle, chairman of search firm Matthew Hoyle Financial Markets in Hong Kong. As we reported earlier this year, several banks are scrambling to hire in this sector as Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect causes stock markets to surge in Greater China. The 18% pay increments secured by candidates right now look set to rise even higher in the near future.