Banks across Asia Pacific may be reducing their recruitment in the fourth quarter, but hiring in some job functions is still buoyant.
If you’re looking for a new role before Christmas, we’ve asked recruiters in Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia to tell us the key trends now shaping the job market.
“It’s always worth exploring the job market in Q4 to potentially beat the post-bonus recruitment rush and have a role secured and ready to go in early 2018,” says Richard Aldridge, a director at recruiters Black Swan Group in Singapore. “Or alternatively, if you start a job in Q4, use your lost bonus as leverage to increase your base salary.”
Chinese firms have done most of the hiring in Hong Kong investment banking this year – and will even be recruiting in the fourth quarter. “They will continue to ramp up the expansion of their front-office teams,” says Kevin Allen, senior consultant in global banking at recruiters Links International in Hong Kong. “These roles will be across M&A, capital markets and principle investment.”
As private banks of all sizes – from UBS to UBP – continue to hire relationship managers, pressure on pay is increasing. “In their bid to grab market share faster, banks have created intense competition for talent, which in turn is pushing up salaries,” says Rick Chung, a senior manager at recruiters Randstad in Hong Kong. “I’ve seen record increments for RMs this year, with some achieving as high as 60% for a job move.”
Banks are no longer just talking up machine learning, they are hiring experts in the field. “I’m particularly seeing more machine-learning skills in jobs involving the build-out of trading systems,” says Vince Natteri, director of headhunters Pinpoint Asia in Hong Kong. “Both buy-side and bulge-bracket firms in Asia are becoming more interested in machine learning for trading. More roles will open up next year, too.”
Several firms – HSBC and DBS among them – have told us that they are open to non-banking candidates as they boost hiring in digital banking. Recruiters say this has now become an industry-wide trend. Banks are recruiting project managers and designers from large technology companies, but they are also poaching from digital consultancies, digital agencies and fintech start-ups, says Charlotte Cheung, associate manager at recruiters Michael Page in Hong Kong. “This brings in cross-industry experience in order to counter fintech’s growing market share.”
Away from private banking, it’s unadvisable to be too aggressive when negotiating your pay. “I’m seeing candidates becoming more realistic about compensation, especially for the front-office roles, because markets are volatile and the employment market is erratic this year,” says Anita Sim, regional head of front office at LMA Recruitment in Singapore. “And in Q4, when most banks do restructurings before annual performance reviews, many bankers are more concerned about job stability than compensation.”
Private equity hiring is “above average” in Australia right now as new entrants to the sector expand, says Harrison Callahan, a front-office associate at JS Careers in Sydney. “BGH Capital and Odyssey Private Equity are notable local arrivals, while Oaktree Capital and Adamantem Capital have continued their expansion in 2017. Anchorage Capital Partners, Allegro Funds, CHAMP Private Equity, Quadrant Private Equity, and Pemba Capital Partners have either raised or are raising new funds, resulting in more hiring throughout this year.”
Demand for AML staff has been strong in Singapore and Hong Kong for about two years – and now the hiring boom has spread to Sydney and Melbourne. “Due to increased media attention, major banks in Australia are reviewing and updating their AML/financial crime capabilities,” says Carl Piesse, business director at recruiters Hays in Sydney. “This has led to a spike in recruitment to ensure AML frameworks are meeting AUSTRAC regulations. This trend will continue through to Christmas and is likely to be a big focus in 2018.”
The third and fourth calendar quarters are traditionally a busy time for recruitment at domestic banks in Australia because the local financial year means they pay their bonuses several months after the international banks do. This year the hiring season has seen a rise in financial professionals receiving counteroffers, says Andrew Morris, director of recruiters Robert Half in Australia. “But offering a purely financial incentive to remain with the bank rarely works. It can be a very costly way to delay the inevitable.”
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