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30% of Singaporeans take counter offers as banks try “guilt trips” to keep staff

If you’re a banking professional in Singapore looking to move jobs this bonus season, don’t expect an easy exit. Counter offers are back with a vengeance. “Successfully replacing candidates can be a challenging task given the current Covid situation, so managers will work hard to incentivise great employees to stay put,” says Paul Newell, business director for banking and financial services at Hays.

“We’re starting to see an increase in counter offers in Singapore,” says Richard Aldridge, a director at recruiters Black Swan Group, adding that some banks are trying to be more tactical in their efforts to persuade staff to take counters. “They first play the ‘guilt trip’ card with the person, followed by the ‘anger’ stage, and then comes the money. The employee has the final say, but it’s never easy leaving your comfort zone,” says Aldridge.

Counter offers are happening “almost all the time” this year in hot job sectors such as private banking, technology, digital banking, data analytics, and compliance, says Gary Lai, managing director of Asia at Charterhouse Partnership. If a bank loses someone in a tech role, for example, it’s going to be hugely challenging and expensive to hire a new person in a competitive job market,” says Lai. Most pay rises attached to counters simply match what the new employer is willing to pay, although some exceed that salary by up to 10%.

To the dismay of hiring managers, the percentage of people accepting counters is on the rise in 2021. The overall figure is now about 30%, estimates Lai. While senior professionals are less enthusiastic, about 40% of junior job seekers in sought-after roles are being tempted to stay on. “These are high percentages. I’m seeing increasing numbers of new jobs fall through because of counters. During Covid, people are more conservative about moving because they fear being ‘last in first out’. So they’re more open to remaining where they enjoy tenure and stability. If the counter has removed money from the equation, they look at the move from a risk perspective, and may decide that the risk is too high in the current market,” says Lai.

Lai says people who are actively searching for a new job and have strong reasons to leave their current position will likely reject counter offers. Those who are headhunted are the most willing to accept counters. “People who are passive in their job search and are focused on career growth are usually happy to discuss counter offers because they see the possibility of career growth in a familiar environment,” says Emily Tan, executive director of financial services at Kerry Consulting.

“A counter offer mostly feels like a compliment and will make a professional feel like their skills are in demand. It can often feel like a validation of their experience and value within the business. People receiving counter offers may for those reasons prefer to stay in their comfort zone,” says Newell from Hays.

The decision to accept or reject a counter offer opens up a can of worms for banking professionals. “Employees who’ve received an underwhelming salary increment recently may feel confused as to where the additional budget for the counter came from, and may question how much they should trust their employer moving forward,” says Lim Chai Leng, senior director of banking and financial services at Randstad.

“Counters are easy to accept because professionals might think they’re performing the same tasks with more money. But they fail to realise that their initial reason for a job change was mainly due to their disappointment in their current role, which is directly linked to their bosses or work environment. Even if they accept a counter, their problems persist. And most employees who accept a counter end up leaving within six to 12 months,” says Marie Tay, managing director of The Resolute Hunter.

Photo by Ashfaq KP on Unsplash

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AUTHORSimon Mortlock Content Manager

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