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OCBC to hire 3,000 as Singapore banks swoop on top talent during Covid crisis

Singapore’s local banks view the Covid-19 pandemic as an opportunity to take on top talent, particularly in technology, as many of their global rivals curtail their hiring in the Republic.

Monthly job vacancies posted by foreign banks in Singapore fell 35% year-on-year in May, according to data from analytics company Burning Glass. By contrast, OCBC has just released a statement that it will recruit more than 3,000 people in Singapore this year. DBS announced last month that it plans to add 2,000 people, including new and replacement hires, in 2020.

Both banks say they want to show their commitment to Singapore and help graduates and experienced professionals navigate a challenging job market. Now is also a good time to hire high-performing job seekers who would otherwise have multiple offers, say recruiters in Singapore. Banks face less competition for talent as their rivals have reigned in their hiring and candidates have fewer job options.

At OCBC, about 2,100 of the 3,000 new people will go into full-time roles across the group – including Bank of Singapore and OCBC Securities – in functions including wealth management, corporate banking, risk management, operations, data analytics, and technology. The remaining 900 jobs are a combination of traineeship and internship positions, which suggest that OCBC has not cut back its campus recruitment.

Technology hiring appears to be of particular importance for OCBC. “The crisis has accelerated digitalisation worldwide and there has been a sharp increase in the number of OCBC customers accessing the various digital channels and solutions,” says the bank’s statement. “To continue to enable the roll-out of a wide range of digital solutions for both customers and employees, OCBC will also be hiring more technology related roles.”

This confirms the prediction we made last month that OCBC would ramp up tech hiring. During the firm’s virtual annual general meeting CEO Samuel Tsien focused on the surging usage of OCBC’s digital platforms. Online trading volume jumped 104% compared with Q4, for example. OCBC currently has 55 Singapore-based vacancies in information technology and analytics on its careers website, just over a quarter of its local openings. DBS’s new hiring campaign includes plans to create 360 new technology jobs.

The 2,100 new full-time positions represent about 19% of OCBC’s current Singapore workforce of around 11,000, although the firm’s headcount probably won’t grow by that much because of natural attrition. Still, it is likely that OCBC will be hiring more people in 2020 than it does in a typical year. In 2019, its global headcount went up by only 786 (2.6%). OCBC has also pledged not to make layoffs during the pandemic.

OCBC’s hiring spree comes despite it posting a 43% plunge in first-quarter profit last month. But the firm is banking on the new recruits helping it to rebound post-Covid. “Over the past few months, we have seen how quickly a pandemic can evolve and how unpredictably events can unfold. Yet, though Covid-19’s impact on the economy has been severe, this crisis will come to an end,” CEO Tsien said in the statement. “We are committed to helping Singaporeans ride out this extremely difficult period. By creating and protecting jobs, we contribute towards boosting disposable incomes and consumer confidence. Both are much needed to reignite the economy,” he added.

Not all global banks are cutting their hiring in Singapore. Last week UBS announced plans to hire 300 employees in Singapore, increasing its workforce there by 10%.

Image: unsplash

Have a confidential story, tip, or comment you’d like to share? Email: or Telegram: @simonmortlock. You can also follow me on LinkedIn.

AUTHORSimon Mortlock Content Manager

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