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Surviving a Singapore slowdown

Will expat bankers be the first to go in a downturn?

Singapore's banking sector has undergone massive changes since 1997, when the Asian financial crisis caused institutions to scrutinise hiring policies and ditch expats in their droves. Ten years on, many of those same people are back, but packages with accommodation, school fees and cars are are no longer so common.

Recruiters say this may make Western roles in Singapore more secure in the event of a downturn. "Companies are hiring strategically, not recklessly, with a lot of expats coming over on fixed-term contracts or on a project basis," explains Nicholas Hughes, manager of front office banking at ConnectedGroup. "Pay is similar to locals, so expats may not be the first to go as they no longer cost much more."

Recruiters are also keen to point out that right now they see no sign of any let-up in hiring, let alone job losses. "Banks have needed to bring numbers of people in to chase business and ambitious growth targets are being set," says Andrew Price, director of banking at PSD Group in Singapore.

Price also believes the next downturn is unlikely to have such far-reaching impacts as 1997. "Companies are nowhere near as leveraged, Asia is much more part of the global economy, local debt markets have developed significantly and the amount of money in the region suggests it will be better able to withstand a slowdown."

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