As rival European banks in Singapore grab headlines for either cutting jobs (Barclays, Deutsche, Standard Chartered) or refocusing on private banking (Credit Suisse, UBS), Societe Generale has been quietly recruiting in the city state.
The French firm offloaded its Asia wealth unit to DBS in 2014, but it has expanded in other functions and is now finding it less difficult to attract good candidates, says Pascal Lambert, SocGen’s head of Southeast Asia and group country head for Singapore.
“We’ve been upgrading the quality of our teams in Singapore since I joined in 2012 by hiring in certain areas – such as energy and infrastructure, where the needs of the market are huge across Southeast Asia. We also set up a DCM team in Singapore two years ago,” says Lambert, speaking to eFinancialCareers on the sidelines of the FT Asia Banking Forum in Singapore.
SocGen would not reveal its Singapore headcount numbers. It employs 7,100 people across Asia, mainly in India.
Other expansionist functions at SocGen Singapore over the past few years include trade finance, project finance, and fixed income and currency sales and trading. “We’ve also become one of the top banks for structured products in Asia,” says Lambert.
He says SocGen’s growth in these core areas has boosted awareness of the bank among job seekers in Singapore.
“We’re a multi-specialist bank. We’re not the largest bank in terms of traditional lending, but in some sectors – like project finance and now also in DCM – we’ve become more attractive to candidates in Singapore compared to four years ago. And it helps that Asia as a region has also increased the percentage of revenue it contributes to the business globally.”
Redundancies at some of its competitors in Asia have also helped recruitment at SocGen. “Over the past two years it’s become much easier for us to hire in Singapore – banks aren’t on the same growth cycle as each other anymore. Some firms are cutting back, but we have a strong balance sheet and our ratios are in the green. This is also helping us attract talent.”
Still, SocGen isn’t among the larger foreign banks in Singapore. Citi employs about 10,000 people there, for example.
Neither is Singapore one of SocGen's Asian hubs for tech or operations roles, most of which it locates in India. “Compared to India, Singapore is where we base our value-add jobs in the front and middle office,” say Lambert.
But Lambert says being a relatively niche player can actually help hiring. “Candidates find it attractive that they get the benefits of working for a large global bank but with a manageable local headcount. For example, Societe Generale emphasises the need for cross-selling, which is easier to do if you’re sitting on the same floor,” he explains.
Lambert says he also encourages SocGen’s Singapore staff to work for the bank in other financial centres.
“We always try to identify talent who have the potential for mobility, either between departments or countries. We’ve had a few examples recently: one of our young Singaporean sales assistants is now working in London and we also relocated an employee from our finance team in Singapore to a risk function in Hong Kong.”
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