Singapore set for 2021 hedge fund hiring boom

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Singapore set for 2021 hedge fund hiring boom

Buy-side hiring in Singapore is set to rise next year as more global hedge funds set up in the city and search for talent. But their recruitment could be delayed by local skills shortages and difficulties obtaining work permits for foreign staff.

Singapore rolled out a new legal structure for investment funds in January, designed to attract more funds to its shores. The Republic is also seen as a safe haven for global firms amid ongoing political tension in Hong Kong, although hedge funds are not closing their Hong Kong offices.

Earlier this month DE Shaw, the US hedge fund with more than $50bn in investment capital, said it will open an office in Singapore in 2021 as it looks to tap new investment opportunities. Citadel and Marshall Wace made similar announcements in August.

These firms have yet to hire many people in advance of their office openings, say headhunters. There are no Singapore-based employees with LinkedIn profiles at the three funds. But this is expected to change in the coming months.

DE Shaw Asia Pacific general manager Kevin Patric said in a statement that the Singapore office will enable his firm to “tap into the region’s talent, capital, and investment opportunities”. A source close to Citadel told us in August that it sets up in markets where it is able to hire top talent, and that Singapore is no exception.

“The expectation is that more jobs across the front, middle and back office will be created as the hedge fund ecosystem in Singapore develops, with an increasing number of global and regional managers setting up here or moving part of their operations here,” says Will Tan, managing partner at Principle Partners.

Nilay Khandelwal, managing director of Michael Page in Singapore, says hedge funds will transfer some of their current portfolio managers into Singapore from other offices, but there will also be local hiring of candidates with “Asia exposure”. “At this point, hedge funds are keen on hiring reliable and experienced people, given that these hires are costly, and the risk appetite remains low to grow existing junior employees into PM roles,” he adds.

Despite the positive rhetoric from the funds, poaching senior Singapore-based portfolio managers is far from straightforward, because the Republic has not traditionally been a stronghold for hedge fund talent. “Cities which have the biggest exchanges, like New York, London and Hong Kong, also tend to have the largest hedge funds. That’s why Singapore lags behind in having a job market that can develop talent in the first place,” says Pan Zaixian, founder of headhunters Pan & Co.

Tan says the talent pool for portfolio managers – and the analysts and sub PMs who support them – has improved over the past year but remains “thin”.  As global hedge funds expand in Singapore they will need to “hire a mix of local and foreign candidates to operate optimally”, says Tan. “Some roles require specific language skills and/or experience and the current talent pool may not be able to meet these requirements,” he adds.

However, a buy-side headhunter who asked not to be named says it’s become more difficult to secure Employment Passes for external candidates based overseas as the Singapore government steps up its efforts to ensure local representation in workplaces. The pandemic has also dampened the supply of candidates willing to relocate, even into Singapore, which has low rates of Covid-19 and where employees are increasingly returning to the office. “With global mobility a challenge, there are some difficulties hiring hedge fund portfolio managers in Singapore. And Hong Kong is still considered a more mature hedge fund market,” says Khandelwal from Michael Page.

Singapore’s talent shortages may diminish over the long term. The hedge fund sector in Singapore will benefit from more large funds building a pipeline of similar talent that the whole industry will eventually be able to hire from, says Pan. “Pay, payout formulas and performance bonuses at hedge funds here tend to be in line with global standards. I think the government is doing its best to make Singapore a more hedge-fund friendly location,” adds Tan from Principle Partners.

Photo by Douglas Sanchez on Unsplash

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