Jobs where banks in Asia hire expats…and jobs where they don’t

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You’re a banking professional based in the West and you’d love a job in Singapore or Hong Kong. You’ve got a great CV and online profile, you’ve connected with dozens of recruiters in Asia and you’re ready to go.

So why can’t you get a job or even an interview? There’s a pretty simple answer. It’s actually got nothing to do with how well you’ve honed your profile and everything to do with how your experience matches current hiring trends in Asia.

The simple fact is that although banks in Singapore and Hong Kong are doing some hiring right now, it is very specific.

Moreover, a lot of the roles on offer are just not suitable for people who don’t already have significant work experience with a bank in Singapore or Hong Kong.

If you’re an overseas candidate, you should find out which jobs are still worth applying for in Asia…and which aren’t. Let’s start with the latter, including some advice on how you might still be able to move to Asia in the future if you tweak your career in your home country first.

Don’t apply for these banking jobs in Singapore and Hong Kong

Regulatory compliance

If you thought all overseas compliance professionals could walk into Asian jobs, you’d be wrong. Many regulatory compliance jobs are very country and market specific. Without prior knowledge of local regulations in Asia and some local work experience (plus, in some cases, Asian language skills) it will be difficult to make the move to Singapore or Hong Kong in regulatory compliance. I’d advise you to first transfer into control room, advisory or financial crime compliance – these functions are typically more mobile – in your home country and then try to relocate to Asia.

Relationship managers

Whether you’re in wealth management or corporate banking, without a transferable portfolio of clients, it doesn't matter what your track record is like in your home country. Banks in Asia won't take a bet on you if you don’t have an existing base to launch from. Your best bet is to try to move onto an Asia desk (if your bank has one based in your country) or make a career change into credit risk, which could result in an Asian job down the line.

Product control

The humble product control role was once almost a guaranteed ticket to Asia. Now, not so much – skill shortages have all but disappeared as Singapore and Hong Kong have recently grown their own talent pool. There’s also been five years’ worth of offshoring of PC jobs away for costly Singapore and Hong Kong, so there’s now a much larger group of PC candidates for banks to choose from. If you work in PC overseas and have your eye on Asia, I’d first suggest transferring to the risk and controls group (or even internal audit) at your current bank. These functions have a more stable future in Singapore and Hong Kong as they demand specialist skills and are more likely to escape offshoring.

CFOs/senior financial controllers

It’s a tough job market in this function. There have been a lot of redundancies stretching back over the past five years and the sector is reeling as a result. There are a lot of senior finance people in Singapore and Hong Kong looking to move away from banking due to the lack of job stability and poor long-term outlook.

Do apply for these banking jobs in Singapore and Hong Kong

Cyber security

Pack your bags! J.P. Morgan, OCBC, UOB, KPMG, Citibank, the list goes on – they’re all hiring. This skill set is so hot it's a joke. A word of caution though – don't expect to double your salary if you make a move. You will pick up a nice pay bump, perhaps 30% if you’re a superstar, but don't get too carried away and miss out on a good job by trying to push the bank too far on compensation.

AML/financial crime compliance in private banking

Now here’s a compliance role that is transferable into Asia. The anti-money laundering and financial crime world is growing at a rapid rate across financial services, but this is particularly the case in the private banking sector. If you’re an overseas-based AML professional you should find numerous private banks in Singapore and Hong Kong that would be interested in recruiting you.

Female technologists

Banks in Singapore and Hong Kong want to hire you. It’s no secret that the banking technology sector has not pulled its weight in the past on the gender diversity front. There are simply not enough women working in the sector in Asia and banks now want to change that. Female technologists who are keen to build their careers in Asia should take note – now is a great time to move to Singapore and Hong Kong.

KYC/Client on boarding

Deutsche Bank, OCBC, J.P. Morgan, Nomura, UOB – did I miss anyone? These are just some of the banks who are looking for experienced know-your-customer people, especially at associate to VP level. There’s a local talent shortage too, so professionals from overseas are in high demand.

The author has been recruiting for the banking industry in Asia – in both agencies and in-house – for more than 10 years.

Image credit:kjorgen, iStock, Thinkstock

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