Banks in Hong Kong and Singapore are trying to cut technology headcount costs by offshoring, hiring cheap contractors and slashing salaries as they replace senior staff with juniors.
Fintech recruitment in the developed (read, expensive) Asian banking hubs of Singapore and Hong Kong is generally sporadic and specialist this year, say recruiters. “Banks are still offshoring IT roles and moving jobs to third-party vendors on one hand, but at the same time they are hiring in other areas,” says Vince Natteri, director of recruitment firm Pinpoint Asia in Hong Kong.
Standard Chartered is, for example, offshoring to both China and Malaysia for its Scope International operations and IT subsidiary. “ANZ is also continuing to strengthen its IT team in India and other banks are following suit,” says Stuart Jones, divisional manager of banking and finance at recruiter Peoplebank in Singapore.
Recent months have also seen a surge in banks hiring IT contractors, a comparatively cost-effective option in Singapore and Hong Kong. “In the UK, for example, contracting rates are higher than for permanent staff; this is not the case in Singapore,” says Jones. “Salaries are pro-rated from permanent ones, while holidays and benefits follow government minimum guidelines, which fall well short of corporate benefits.”
Because most banks are no longer engaging in large-scale fintech hiring in Singapore and Hong Kong, talent shortages are not as intense as they were five years ago and employers have been able to pare back on pay. “Some financial institutions are reducing their senior IT workforces and then hiring in the same area for 50% of the original salary,” says Jones. “When projects get less intense, they take on more junior professionals.”
Fintech recruitment in Singapore and Hong Kong is not universally stuck in the doldrums; pockets of hiring remain.
Banks in Hong Kong are following a global trend and bulking up on Agile developers. Agile, an iterative model where development and acceptance are carried out throughout the project, is “relatively new” in Asia, says Sarah Curtis, Hong Kong country manager at recruiters iKas International. “Momentum is really picking up this year for doing Agile well, rather than just doing it.”
Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect, a scheme giving investors in both cities mutual access to each other’s stock markets, is also fuelling demand for developers with experience in cash-equities exchange connectivity, adds Curtis. “And generally in Hong Kong, there is still hiring for people with strong Scala and/or Python development skills, in addition to good Java.”
As a rule, banks continue to base IT jobs in Hong Kong and Singapore if they need to be closely attached to the business – front-office development and trade-floor support, for example – or require regular interaction with local regulators, says Natteri from Pinpoint Asia.
“There's a push for IT audit and compliance due to the need to keep in line with regulators," says Jones from Peoplebank. “Cyber security is still a hot area. We’re seeing opportunities in threat management and incident response along with general security risk.”
Bank in Singapore are looking for different programming languages, according to their project needs, says Jones. “DBS wants Tibco and CA LISA professionals, while JPMorgan is looking for core but breadth-of-experience Java professionals. UBS is more interested in end-user support and multi-user network professionals (Citrix) and ANZ wants C-language for its risk roles.”