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Is it best to move to Singapore before September 2023?

Foreign bankers to flock to Singapore in H1

More foreign finance professionals are now moving to Singapore as we head into the first half of 2023. But the recruiters who arrange these moves are concerned about new immigration rules that will apply in the second half.

In September, Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower (MoM) reduced the standard processing time for Employment Pass (EP) applications from three weeks to 10 days. Recruiters who attended an eFinancialCareers round table earlier this month have since seen a increase in EP approvals compared with 2021, when Singapore’s expat population hit a 10-year low.

“This will be good for the recruitment industry in 2023 because we certainly need more candidates. But while our financial services clients are now saying, ‘yes we’re open to foreign talent’, that’s only if we’ve exhausted the local market – Singaporeans are still preferred,” a delegate told the round table.

Moreover, some of the round table  panellists were concerned that MoM’s upcoming Complementarity Assessment Framework (COMPASS) for EPs, which kicks in from September 2023, might potentially make it more laborious to hire from overseas.

COMPASS is introducing a new points system for EPs, based not just on salary and qualifications, but also on the nationality diversity of the hiring firm and its support for local employment. “It aims to improve transparency for EP applications, but I hope it doesn’t add too many layers of complexity in the process,” said a recruiter, who like her counterparts at the round table asked not to be named in this report.

Meanwhile, although Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee said in October that he wants to “trawl the world for talents”, recruiters at the round table have not seen a big uptick in overseas applications from finance professionals who’ve never lived in Hong Kong before.

“It used to be that when you posted jobs here, you’d get flooded with candidates from across the world who wanted to experience Hong Kong. But that’s not happening any more, even as we reopen borders, because Hong Kong has been so tarnished in the international press,” said a recruiter at the round table. “I don't think there’ll be an influx of non-Hong Kong connected people coming in 2023.”

By contrast, recruiters are already fielding more enquiries from finance professionals – both locals and expats – who quit Hong Kong during Covid as part of a talent exodus which saw more than 113,000 residents leave the city in the 12 months to mid-2022. “Now that Hong Kong is reopening, people who’ve lived in Hong Kong before and enjoyed it are starting to move back. I've had three senior candidates contact me recently wanting to return,” said a recruiter.

Round table delegates cited examples of a Hong Kong banker who moved to Australia but became “bored” by that country’s smaller financial sector, and a former Hong Kong resident who is tiring of the  UK’s inclement weather and missing his Hong Kong lifestyle. “During the 1997 handover people left and then came back, so we might see a similar trend again. Even some of those who’ve gone to Singapore recently will eventually return – the key reason is Hong Kong’s connection to China,” said the recruiter.

Photo by Grahame Jenkins on Unsplash

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AUTHORSimon Mortlock Content Manager

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