Singapore bankers bullish about changing jobs – for now

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Singapore bankers bullish about changing jobs – for now

Amid climbing interest rates and mutterings of an oncoming recession, bankers in Singapore are still jumping jobs, thanks to factors such as Covid-19 fatigue and the sheer availability of roles.

The feeling in the market seems to be driven by the fact that most candidates have spent the last two years hunkered down during the pandemic, and are now very open to pastures new as the world continues to open up,” says APAC managing director of Black Swan Group, Richard Aldridge.

Citing a survey by Robert Walters Singapore that found three-quarters of Singaporeans were keen to switch jobs this year, the recruitment firm’s manager for banking and financial services, Priya Gupta, credits continued hiring activity to the inflow of talent from Hong Kong to Singapore and the “unprecedented number of roles since the Lehman Brothers’ collapse or the credit crunch”.

“There is no slowing down in the local and regional markets,” she adds.

That there is such a large pool of talent open to new roles must come as some comfort to the banking industry, which has been hiring aggressively since the start of the pandemic amid mass digitalisation and booming demand for private wealth services among Asia’s rich.

Hiring demand remains strong, say both recruiters. Aldridge attributes the buzz to both “churn” (people leaving roles and being replaced), as well as larger banks’ difficulties filing new roles in credit, compliance, tech and know your customer (KYC). “KYC in particular has been in demand, as perm hiring and multiple projects vie for the same talent,” says Aldridge. Banks’ risk, compliance, legal, finance, audit, fraud and operations divisions are also charging ahead with hiring plans. 

Among the trends Gupta has observed include talent moving into insurance, buy-side and private equity, and an uptick in roles in asset management, fund management, ESG risk, and IRRBB (interest rate risk in the banking book) modelling – in line with recent interest rate movements.

Despite economic slowdowns, pay increases for new joiners remain generous  – Aldridge’s figure is 20%, while Gupta says a 25% to 30% increment for associate to vice president levels in core banking “is the norm, particularly for mid-year”.

“Whilst the market is peaking, it is very unlikely that the next few months will affect candidates’ remuneration expectations,” she adds.

Nevertheless, a sea change may be brewing: Aldridge says he has “just started to encounter a few comments this month of ‘first in, last out’, mainly from senior vice president or director-level candidates”.

And despite the temptations, banking professionals themselves are increasingly settling in their current employers to ride out the potential economic rough patch.

My peers are alright with the pay, given recent increments, and if we jump, the increase might not be that substantial to justify a change of team,” says an investment banker at a financial advisory group. “If the economy is not doing well, it’s usually a ‘last in first out’ basis – or at least, most places tend to do it this way if they have to reduce headcount. So, people tend to be wary about changing jobs. I think people tend to be a bit more risk averse these days.”

Photo by Javier Allegue Barros on Unsplash

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