More finance jobs in Asia in 2014 but it's not all good news in Singapore

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Two new surveys by recruitment firms operating in Asia point to good hiring prospects for financial services candidates in the region, with a significant proportion of firms looking to add staff and raise salaries in 2014 in certain business segments. But the outlook for Singapore is mixed, with some sectors of financial services braced for a year dictated by cost pressures.

The 2013/2014 Annual Regional Client Survey by Bó Lè Associates revealed that 37% of employers in financial services and insurance in Asia plan to pay bonuses equal to three to six months' salary industry indicated that they will give out 3-6 month’s salary as bonuses.

The data also showed that one in four financial services firms planned to increase headcount by 10% to 20%, while 13% of the professional services firms' respondents said they would grow their staff complement by between a fifth and a third.


[caption id="attachment_160027" align="aligncenter" width="668"]Expected hiring in Asia in 2014 (Source: Bo Le) Expected hiring in Asia in 2014 (Source: Bo Le)[/caption]

Looking more specifically at Singapore, search firm Hudson's latest quarterly report - Employment Trends Q1 2014 - points to tightening in the labour market in the Lion City.

Hudson says that while 39.5% of employers plan to hire this quarter, the number is somewhat softer than previous period.

"This is the second successive quarter where there has been downward movement in the overall hiring outlook, with banking and financial services being the only industry to demonstrate an increase in positive hiring expectations."

Interestingly, the Hudson survey shows that more than two thirds of employees are either actively or passively looking for another job, and eight out of ten expect to make a move this year. The biggest motivator remains money, but the survey also revealed that Singapore workers are dissatisfied with the quality of management leadership. Two in five of employees surveyed rated their manager as ‘average’, ‘poor’ or ‘very poor'.

In accounting and finance, the survey revealed a number of key trends:

  • Business partnering finance professionals are still in high demand, and candidates proficient in audit, compliance and risk are also highly sought after.
  • Hudson’s top two most recruited accounting and finance roles for 2013 were internal auditors, and financial planning and analysis. "There is a strong demand for junior and mid level positions in these fields. Most in-demand skills include internal audit, mergers and acquisitions, corporate finance and financial analysis."
  • There are fewer opportunities for senior candidates. Many companies now prefer to keep headcount and cost down and promote finance directors and CFOs from within rather than to recruit external candidates.
  • An international outlook is valued: mid-level candidates who are willing to travel, relocate and/or have exposure to emerging or growing markets like Myanmar and China are sought after.
  • The trend for outsourcing transactional junior roles overseas is continuing and this is affecting the number of junior and entry level roles in the profession.
  • Salaries continue to rise but more slowly, with increases of 4–5% in 2014 expected, compared with 5–8% in recent years.
  • Employers want local candidates which would translate to fewer opportunities for expatriates.


[caption id="attachment_160025" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Finance and accounting salaries 2014 (Source: Hudson) Finance and accounting salaries 2014 (Source: Hudson)[/caption]

In banking and other financial services, the following trends were noted:

  • Compliance is a growth area. High-calibre people are likely to receive multiple job offers and command high salaries with increments of up to 25–35% on their current base salary.
  • Transaction banking will continue to drive growth for many local and regional banks.
  • Back office and trade support functions continue to move offshore.
  • Front office hiring activity has been subdued in the investment banking over the past 12 months but there have been opportunities in sectors including corporate and institutional banking.
  • Regional banks are expanding into north and south east asia. Australian banks in particular are appointing senior people who possess local market knowledge to lead growth in these markets.
  • Talent retention is a priority.
  • Cutting costs is a priority for back and middle office functions.
  • Salary structures have not changed much.
  • Salaries in key infrastructure areas of accounting, back office operations and change management have flat lined and even declined over the past 12 months particularly for senior candidates at director level and above.


[caption id="attachment_160026" align="aligncenter" width="590"]Front office banking salaries (Source: Hudson) Front office banking salaries (Source: Hudson)[/caption]

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