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How banks in Singapore and Hong Kong are desperately fighting back against Google and Amazon

Be it Alibaba or Amazon, Google or Grab, large technology firms in Singapore and Hong Kong are increasingly poaching developers away from the banking sector.

How, though, are banks fighting this trend? How are they trying to recruit and retain technologists whose potential employment opportunities outside of banking continue to expand? We asked several banking technology recruiters in Asia to reveal the key tactics banks are using to lure tech professionals into their ranks.

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Singapore and Hong Kong aren’t Silicon Valley – banks’ tech vacancies in the two financial hubs still outnumber those of tech companies. “While firms like Google and Grab might offer a more relaxed work culture for engineers, their hiring volumes pale in comparison to the banks,” says Joshua Spark, associate director of regional technology at LMA recruitment in Singapore. “Tech talent is more essential than ever for the banking sector to evolve and compete, and banks’ sheer size assures career trajectory, especially for the risk averse.”

Banks need you

“Years of bolted-on architecture and the urgent need to modernise provide a genuine challenge for the technical genius,” says Spark. “Banks need your skills; the Googles and Facebooks probably don’t. It’s harder to contribute to smooth-running big tech firms, and even harder to be noticed.”


Front-office job stability may be on the long-term decline in banking, but recruiters in Asia say technologists regard the sector as among the most secure career options on offer. “While there is an increasing interest in big tech firms, a lot of candidates still prefer to remain in the banking industry due to perceived job stability,” says Riley King, senior manager of IT recruitment at Hays in Hong Kong. “Some candidates also prefer the job-rank structure at large banks.”

Business-facing roles

Jobs that are closely aligned to the front-office are often an easier sell to candidates, because they position technologists as core to the business, rather than supporting it. “I’m seeing more tech professionals from banks moving to tech firms than before, but the ones that stay with banks are typically in a business-facing role with strong product or business experience,” says Faiz Modak, manager of financial services technology at recruiters Robert Walters.

Quality over deadlines

Tech job seekers tend to prefer banking roles that aren’t purely driven by deadlines. “I recently placed a senior technologist who was previously working with a US bank and was passionate about working in an agile environment that follows clean coding practices,” says Modak. “When his job focus shifted from quality of code to just delivering a project on time he eventually decided to move to another bank where he could use technology to bootstrap ideas and create prototypes. He could also focus on the quality of the products delivered and see the results of his efforts.”


“There are still many technology professionals who prefer staying in banking largely due to the salary and bonus,” says Modak from Robert Walters. “Some banks offer a high base salary and bonus structure that can be challenging for tech firms to match.”

Innovation labs

“Technologists are increasingly enquiring about the technical growth particular banks are able to offer,” says Shinjika Shukla, an associate director at recruiters Michael Page in Singapore. “Banks with innovation labs or fintech hubs in Asia are therefore able to attract and retain such people more easily than banks that still offer more traditional technology roles. The opportunity to work and experiment with new technologies is the key to attracting talent within banks.”

Local variations make banking tech more interesting

“Tech professionals are often drawn towards working in banks as the implementation of emerging technologies differs from country to country due to varying regulations in the banking industry,” says Shukla. “So you get a lot of different exposure to each technology implemented.”


Banks in Singapore and Hong Kong continue to plug local technology talent shortages by transfering staff from their overseas offices. And they’re also increasingly moving techies away from the two cities when vacancies crop up internally elsewhere in Asia or globally. “Opportunities to collaborate with colleagues from other regions, or to transfer overseas help make technologists stay in banking long term,” says Paolo Hiceta, manager of technology at recruiters Hudson in Singapore.

Image credit: BrendanHunter, Getty

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AUTHORSimon Mortlock Content Manager

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