Why Google’s latest Singapore hire is such bad news for banks

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An experienced infrastructure specialist has left JP Morgan to join Google’s Singapore office, in a move that reveals Google’s growing allure among banking technologists in the city state.

Keshi Tan, who worked for JP Morgan in Singapore as a vice president for infrastructure development for just seven months, is now a strategic cloud engineer at Google, according to her online profile. Prior to JPM, Tan was a technology-infrastructure systems integration and automation lead at GIC for two years.

That Tan has moved to Google after spending all of her 11-year career in finance provides further evidence that the firm is tapping Singapore’s large banking tech talent pool to help drive the expansion of its local operations. Google opened a sprawling new APAC headquarters in Pasir Panjang in late 2016. The campus-style office, designed as a mini version of the Googleplex in Mountain View, California, hosts more than 1,000 staff, including most of Google’s senior regional management.

The fact that Tan is specialising in cloud engineering at Google will be particularly worrying for banks in Singapore, which are also trying to recruit and retain cloud experts as they move more of their operations to public and private clouds. Demand for cloud computing expertise – along with skills in other emerging fields such as machine learning and data science – is surging in Singapore, even as hiring for business-as-usual jobs focused on legacy systems declines.

In the face of competition from the likes of Google and AWS (which is also poaching from the finance industry), banks have been forced to look overseas for senior cloud staff, despite recent government restrictions on work visas. “This is because the technology is quite new and the skillset is not as developed in Singapore as in overseas markets,” Adam Edwards, a business director at recruiters Hays, told us.

Tan is not the only cloud specialist that Google in Singapore has recently poached from a bank over the past year. For example, Carl Bachman Kharazmi, the former APAC head of cloud engineering at DBS, is now at Google. The company has also been hiring from the finance sector across other roles.  Earlier this year, Aman Narain, head of digital and fintech for APAC at Schroders, joined the tech giant as regional head of e-commerce, retail and travel partnerships. For a list of other ex-banking Googlers in Singapore, click here.

Still, the bank that Keshi Tan has just left, JP Morgan, plans to expand its Singapore hiring focused on leading-edge technologies such as robotics, machine learning and chatbots, Tancy Tan, head of APAC digital operations at JPM, told us in a recent interview. More than a third of the bank’s 3,000 Singapore staff work in technology.

New Google recruit Tan started her career as a technology analyst at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in 2007 after graduating from the National University of Singapore with a degree in computer engineering, according to her public profile. She held three other roles at the US firm, and was a VP-level platform engineer when she left BAML for GIC in 2016.

Have a confidential story, tip, or comment you’d like to share? Contact: smortlock@efinancialcareers.com

Image credit: JasonDoiy, Getty

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