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Singapore settles for settlements

With Asia's capital markets going for growth, clearing and settlement jobs are being ramped up in Singapore.

Clearstream, the settlements provider owned by German-based Deutsche Börse, recently set up a Singapore office to help serve its Asian customers. And recruiters say Barclays Capital, Credit Suisse, Merrill Lynch, Royal Bank of Scotland and UBS are also hiring for clearing and settlements roles.

Is this just a temporary blip en route to the wholesale decampment of such jobs to India?

Not according to John Tomnay, managing director of executive search outfit Tomnay Noble in Singapore: "A few years ago, banks including JPMorgan and Standard Chartered set up operations in India," he says.

"However, though it makes financial sense in the short term to do that, due to the high quality of infrastructure and regulations in Singapore it made more sense to base key departments here - including settlement and documentation, especially in derivatives."

Singapore's government - which is understandably keen to promote the island as a settlements hub - is doing its best to ensure banks setting up in the country are well catered for when it comes to staff. Singapore Polytechnic offers training in credit risk administration, for example, with the result that students are coached in the arcane art of credit derivatives settlements.

For now, however, demand remains high - and unfulfilled. One recruiter says operations professionals can make a 20% salary increase for switching employers. He adds that settlements specialists with a few years' experience can make between US$53k and US$66k in base salary, plus a 15% to 30% bonus.

The pay may not be lavish, but Singapore's cheaper cost of living compared to other financial centres makes it appealing to overseas professionals, who are reportedly not averse to trying it out.

"Headhunters are looking beyond Singapore to fill positions, with hiring from Sydney, India and the Philippines - even Europe - common," adds Tomnay.

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