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Recruiters struggle as Singapore and Hong Kong candidates reluctant to move jobs without big pay rises

The economic recession in Singapore and Hong Kong is making it more difficult for recruiters to convince technology professionals to change jobs in the banking sector. Their reluctance to move is helping to exacerbate talent shortages and is driving up pay demands.

“A common challenge right now is that technologists are very skeptical about making a move, so the available pool of Singaporean talent is very limited,” says Shinjika Shukla, an associate director at Michael Page. “The concept ‘last in first out’ is a concern for a lot of people in Singapore, who would rather be stable in their current employment until the Covid-19 crisis is over,” she adds.

It’s a similar story in Hong Kong. “Tech candidates are more cautious when it comes to changing jobs and this means they’re also more likely to accept counter offers,” says Fiona Mak, director, technology, at Ambition.

While tech vacancies are down on last year across the Singapore and Hong Kong banking sectors, several firms – including DBS, which is adding 360 people to its Singapore tech headcount by year-end – still want to expand their workforces. However, recruiters are even finding it difficult to get tech professionals to respond to their initial requests about vacancies at banks.

“People who are in stable, satisfactory jobs are now more risk adverse and are less likely to engage in exploratory conversations. This makes headhunting, which is essential for certain rare technology skillsets, more challenging, regardless of the level of experience required,” says Patricia Teo, director of the technology practice at Kerry Consulting in Singapore.

Part of the problem for recruiters is that there have been no significant job losses within banks’ technology teams in Singapore and Hong Kong, so tech professionals generally feel protected from layoffs if they stay put. “This means there’s no real motivation to move. Banking as an industry has been doing relatively well and candidates are cautious with career moves while the world is still adapting to Covid-19,” says Paige Fong, manager of the technology practice at Hudson in Singapore.

When recruiters and banks in Asia do find technologists who are potentially willing to change jobs, they face an additional challenge: high pay demands. “Many candidates are still very optimistic and expect to receive similar increments to what they may have got if they were job searching before the downturn,” says Norris Wong, manager of digital and information technology at Hays in Hong Kong.

Shukla from Michael Page agrees: “The current small pool of people willing to explore new opportunities are demanding higher pay packages, and with technology talent already being so limited, a lot of financial services firms end up in an auction to secure the best hires among what’s currently available,” she adds.

Talent shortages are most severe in functions such as cyber security, data analytics and cloud. In Singapore, banks face restrictions on hiring technologists from overseas, which has made them more reliant on the local talent pool.

Photo by Anotia Wong on 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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