“Bankers in Asia change jobs far too much. Here’s why I don’t”

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If you read my previous article on this site, you’ll know that I’m a banker from Sydney who moved to Singapore earlier this year. You’ll also know that I was shocked by how aggressive agency recruiters are here.

But that’s not the only surprise I’ve had since I arrived. One thing that’s also stood out is how frequently Singapore-based banking professionals – both expats and locals alike – look for new jobs. I don’t mean seeking out promotions; I mean trying to change employers.

There seems to be a constant cycle of ‘move-then-try-to-move-again’. Recruiters are partly to blame for this because they will call people they’ve placed into roles soon after they start…to tell them about other new roles. You can see why they do it. Not many banks are significantly increasing headcount in Singapore, so they make money from the musical chairs of banks replacing staff who quit.

But employees and banks are equally to blame. Banks don’t appear to be clamping down enough on so-called “job hopping” (a term used far more in Singapore than it is in Australia) and many banking professionals are chomping at the bit to move.

This is all a big problem for me as a manager because I’m never sure how loyal my team members will be. For my part, I’ve been with the same bank since I graduated 10 years ago. That’s a long time regardless of the market, but in Singapore I stand out from the crowd even more.

This year a few friends and colleagues in Singapore have asked me why I’ve stuck around and what the advantages are. People seem to job hop here because they think they’ll get more money and move up the ranks more rapidly. But in my career I’ve been regularly promoted into better-paying roles, and I’ve been able to change careers into three different functions within my bank. Banks generally only grant career changes to current employees – people they know and trust.

It’s also much more straightforward to move internationally if you stay loyal to the same bank. Moreover, Singapore’s visa laws give more leeway to companies who make internal transfers from their overseas offices.

My long tenure at the bank helps me on a day-to-day basis, too. I’m a senior manager here and if I need something fixed or if I have a question, I know exactly who to contact – across the world. And when I contact them, my relationships are strong enough that they are typically willing to help me out.

Having a great network throughout the bank also means I have more people who will tell me about new job opportunities and will push my cause when it comes to promotions. So next time you speak to a recruiter about abandoning your bank, think about the above. Longer term, there may be better jobs (and even more money) for you if you stay put.

Heather Young (we have used a pseudonym to protect her identity) works for a US bank in Singapore.

Image credit: filadendron, Getty

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