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As HSBC and Stan Chart freeze hiring, other banks in Asia are still recruiting

About a month ago we asked banks in Hong Kong and Singapore whether the Covid-19 pandemic had impacted their recruitment plans – they all said it hadn’t. Today, however, divisions in the Asian job market are starting to show. HSBC and Standard Chartered have announced hiring freezes, but several other large banks say they are continuing to take on talent as normal.

HSBC said on 26 March that it was pausing external and internal recruitment – except for a “small number of frontline and business-critical roles and those already with written offers” – because of the “extraordinary impact of the Covid-19 pandemic”. The freeze, which currently has no end-date, applies globally, according to a Singapore-based spokesperson. However, it is likely to affect Asia more than other markets, because HSBC’s business and hiring plans are concentrated on the region.

In late March, Asia-focused Standard Chartered froze its recruitment for two months. Meanwhile, JP Morgan is “significantly reducing” its hiring globally, and in many cases “stopping it completely” as it takes measures designed to “prevent any new layoffs as a result of Covid-19”, says a Singapore-based spokesperson.

But not all banks have clamped down on their hiring. Citi, which generated 21% of its revenue from Asia last year and is the largest foreign bank in Singapore by headcount, has no hiring freeze in place, according to a spokesperson.

Similarly, a Hong Kong-based Societe Generale representative says the firm’s “volume of vacancies has not been impacted by Covid-19” and that it is “still recruiting for a number of positions from junior to more senior levels, according to our hiring needs”.

We understand that UBS in Asia has not imposed any hiring freezes or changed its recruitment plans. The bank declined to comment.  

A Deutsche Bank spokesperson says there is “no change to Singapore and Hong Kong’s recruitment policy during this Covid-19 period, although some processes may take a little longer”. Interview processes have slowed down across the Asian finance sector as banks arrange video interviews and perform extra due diligence on candidates.

Goldman Sachs would not comment on its Asian hiring, although CEO David Solomon told CNBC last week that “people’s jobs are safe” during the crisis. Several banks, including Credit Suisse, OCBC and UOB, also declined to comment on their recruitment plans, while a number of others did not respond to a request to comment.

Disparities in the recruitment policies of large banks are broadly reflected in a recent survey of finance firms of all sizes in Singapore. About 26% of the hiring managers and HR professionals surveyed by recruiters Morgan McKinley say the coronavirus outbreak has not impacted hiring. Meanwhile, 29% have imposed a freeze, and 38% have slowed down hiring.

Photo by Bryan Rodriguez on Unsplash

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AUTHORSimon Mortlock Content Manager

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