Financial services firms in Singapore are recruiting again as they put concerns about the global economic outlook to one side.
Will Tan, managing director of executive search firm Principle Partners, explains that after a slow first half of the year due to global economic uncertainty and the US-China trade war, companies are recruiting again.
“Firms are beginning to realise the situation is not going to change any time soon and they still have a business to run. It is not buzzing but things are starting to pick up,” Tan says.
Principle Partners prides itself on keeping ahead of recruitment trends by using the data it captures from its searches to predict which roles will be in most demand in the areas in which it specialises going forward.
Within the investment management space, it has identified the credit and private credit space as being the most buoyant in the second half of the year, particularly in the areas of high yield and special situations lending.
“I am seeing a number of private funds, both global and Asian, setting up private credit products in Singapore,” Tan says.
“There is also a high demand for candidates with a strong quantitative skillset, including data science. This area now accounts for a good 20% of what we do. It has really taken off.”
The Singapore government’s ambitious plans to grow the city state as a finance and technology hub is also creating demand for experienced talents across a number of key sectors.
A combination of high-levels of government funding, light-touch regulation and supportive legislation, including the recent introduction of a new corporate fund structure, are making the lion city an increasingly attractive place for financial services firms to be based.
“A lot of the major companies are already here, and new ones are being set up all the time,” Tan says.
The government has put a particular focus on fintech, with the Monetary Authority of Singapore allocating S$225 million of funding to encourage more start-ups to be based in the city, driving recruitment in the sector.
Tan says: “Technology is the hottest area at the moment, simply because it is getting so much support from the government. We are seeing a steady flow of top talent globally coming to Singapore.”
Within the sector, the roles he has identified as being in highest demand are management-level positions.
“What is lacking in Singapore and South East Asia is people at management level, very senior executives who have experience launching companies, building products and coming up with growth strategies, growth hackers who have done it multiple times before,” Tan says.
Singapore’s growing tech sector is also having an impact on recruitment in other areas, particularly venture capital.
Tan explains: “Venture capital has a very strong link to tech because it funds the tech start-ups.”
He adds that venture capital funds in Singapore are currently particularly keen to recruit investment professionals and talents with key operational experience.
“Funds are looking for technical experts who understand business models. When you look at a deal, you could talk about the numbers all day long, but if you don’t understand how things actually work, you could be throwing your money away,” he says.
The hedge fund ecosystem is also expanding in Singapore as large funds increase their presence in the city, while the high levels of wealth being generated in South East Asia are creating demand for family offices.
Tan says: “The situation creates a choice for investment professionals between working in a hedge fund or asset management firm or working for a family office. If you work for a family office you are basically doing the same thing but being paid more, and there is no marketing. All you need to do is invest. It is a more straightforward role.”
Tan says one of the key attributes financial services firms in Singapore are looking for in the talents they hire is China-facing experience.
“China-facing experience is very important, to the point where more than 50% of our searches in Singapore for equities firms in the past year were for candidates with China or Greater China experience.”
He adds that while Singapore may not be as large a financial hub as Hong Kong, this fact may create more career opportunities, as professionals are more likely to see their roles stretched to take on new responsibilities than if they are in locations where companies have a higher headcount.
But Tan cautions that the majority of high-level jobs that are coming up in Singapore are not advertised, with firms instead using specialist recruitment agencies like Principle Partners to help them locate talents.
For those considering a move from overseas, Tan says: “Singapore offers a great lifestyle. It is safe and stable and very good for families, with access to world-class education.”
He jokes that the only downside to living there is the weather, as it is always either sunny or raining.