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Singapore tech giant Sea has just hired an Asia head from Credit Suisse

Santitarn Sathirathai, Credit Suisse’s head of emerging Asia economics, has joined Singapore-based internet company Sea, in the latest example of a senior Asian banking professional leaving for the tech sector.

Sathirathai, who had been with Credit Suisse in Singapore since 2010, is now group chief economist at Sea, Southeast Asia’s second largest tech start-up. The firm, which operates gaming, digital financial services, and e-commerce products across the region, is valued at about $4bn after listing in New York last year, but it faces mounting losses.

Sathirathai’s departure shows that banks in Singapore face a growing recruitment and retention threat from three types of tech firms: small fintech start-ups; global tech giants (most notably, Google), and now large local businesses like Sea and Grab.

Local and international tech companies aren’t only interested in hiring from the vast pool of technologists that banks employ in Singapore. They also want senior front-office banking professionals like Sathirathai – investment bankers, strategists, research analysts, and economists – who can help shape their corporate strategies as they expand into new markets and products.

As we reported last month, Grab recently hired an OCBC head of strategic partnerships, Gary Wong, as the new head of its mobile-wallet app, GrabPay. Sea also has ex-finance professionals scattered across its divisions in Singapore. Xiaoshan Lai, for example, a senior manager in corporate development and strategy at Sea, worked in a Southeast Asia advisory role at Goldman Sachs for two years.

Sea seems unlikely to stop poaching from the finance sector, especially for strategy-related jobs. It currently has two Singapore-based business development associate/senior associate roles available.

Singapore tech firms’ fondness for bankers is shared by their Chinese counterparts. As we noted last week, Tencent – which holds a stake of about 40% in Sea, an investment which has seen the smaller firm dubbed the ‘Tencent of Southeast Asia’ – has several former bankers and researchers with its M&A and strategy teams.

After graduating from LSE, Sathirathai worked as an economist at the Ministry of Finance of Thailand and as a visiting lecturer at Chulalongkorn University in Thailand between 2003 and 2005. He then obtained a PhD in Public Policy Analysis from Harvard prior to joining Credit Suisse.

Have a confidential story, tip, or comment you’d like to share? Contact: smortlock@efinancialcareers.com

Image credit:  DKart, Getty

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AUTHORSimon Mortlock Content Manager

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