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Grab could soon hire even more people in Singapore. Banks should be worried

Banks in Singapore might want to take shelter. Recruiters are warning that if its Grab's reported plans to spin-off and expand its finance unit go ahead, the Singapore tech unicorn will soon need to hire more technology and front-office staff from banks in Singapore.

Grab, which is valued at about $16bn, has reportedly been in early discussions with Ant Financial (part of Alibaba) and PayPal aimed at attracting investment. If it's successful, Grab Financial could soon operate independently of Grab’s ride-hailing business, according to TechCrunch.

Grab has already been expanding its financial product roster this year as it tries to establish itself as a so-called ‘super app’ and fend off competition from rival Go Jek. In March, it announced the launch of several new services, including a digital insurance marketplace.

This growth has been generating plenty of jobs in Singapore. The tech firm currently as 247 vacancies in the Republic, many of which are for engineering or data roles. Grab Financial also has history when it comes to poaching people from banks. As we reported in March, Chun Han Quah joined GrabPay (Grab Financial’s mobile wallet) from UOB as head of financial institution partnerships. GrabPay is headed up by Gary Wong, who joined in 2018 from OCBC.

A spun-off Grab Financial, meanwhile, would need to carry out even more hiring as the extra investment would lead to new products being designed, developed, launched and sold, says a Singapore-based technology recruiter. “If the Grab spinoff happens, it would be similar to when Alibaba did its own spinoff of Ant Financial,” adds April Jimenez, a senior consultant at recruiters Huxley in Singapore. “This attracted people from banks who went for roles in technology and also in areas like compliance, strategy, and channels and partnerships,” she says.

GrabPay’s Wong told us last year his team has hired people from a range of employers, including banks, regulators, credit card firms, and tech-sector competitors.

What does it take to get a job at Grab Financial? It’s important to “fit into the culture”, according to Wong. “For example, I’ve actually rejected candidates who were very good technically, but weren’t collaborative enough in their outlook to be successful here,” says Wong.

Grab Financial may be one of Singapore’s largest fintech businesses, but that doesn’t mean it always has the pick of candidates from banks. In one of its key business sectors, payments, there are plenty of competitors also trying to hire. The latest company to launch an e-wallet in the Republic is local gaming firm Razer. UK company Revolut announced plans in February to create new jobs at its APAC headquarters in the city state.

These fintech firms are raiding banks’ technology teams for talent, say recruiters. There’s “continued demand” for developers to work on payments apps in Singapore, Clarence Quek, a senior client solutions director at recruitment firm Randstad, told us in March.

Image credit: Achisatha Khamsuwan

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AUTHORSimon Mortlock Content Manager

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