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Risk jobs sizzle

Published on Sunday, 22 Sep 2013
Jean-Pierre Hung
Director, Empiric Solutions (Singapore)
John Koh
Managing Director, WMRC Private
James Purdie
Managing Director – Southeast Asia, ConnectedGroup

WHAT’S HOT IN ... SINGAPORE

Jean-Pierre Hung
Director, Empiric Solutions (Singapore)

Can you give an overview of the job situation in Singapore’s banking and finance sectors?
The job market remains very strong and is more competitive than ever for jobseekers in the banking and finance space as many financial and banking institutions are driving costs down, while raising their expectations when it comes to hiring.

Are companies hiring?
Yes, as Singapore is an operations hub for many organisations. Companies are hiring through a combination of churn and growth.

What are the hottest jobs right now?
Revenue-generating roles are always the hottest ones on the market and suffer less from any cost-management strategies. Also, as the financial market is becoming more regulated, we are seeing rising demand for professionals to support major risk and regulatory initiatives.

What kinds of qualifications are employers looking for?
Our surveys show that academic qualifications are not sufficient to secure a mid-level to senior role in Singapore. Communication skills, the reputation of the companies you have worked for, domain experience and solution-minded people, as well as natural ability to show interest and understand broader topics are highly rated by employers.

What can you tell me about salaries?
It’s common for professionals to expect an increase to switch jobs. The increase is generally in a range from 10 per cent to 20 per cent for someone already working.

What about career paths?
For a number of reasons, professionals are very mobile in Singapore, which makes it more difficult for companies and their staff to plan a clear and linear career path. With Singapore having a very strong talent pool, companies don’t hesitate benchmarking their internal employees with external talent when a senior position becomes available.

John Koh
Managing Director, WMRC Private

Can you give me a brief overview of the job situation in the banking and finance sectors in Singapore?
The situation in Asia is uncertain. The economic numbers are not very robust, but we are still on a growth track. Being a small economy, Singapore is very much impacted by our trading partners. That being the case, hiring activities in Singapore are very uncertain at the moment. There are companies that are expanding, and those that are doing well are hiring. Those that are not doing well are taking a wait and see attitude before deciding whether to hire or not.

What are the hottest jobs right now?
WMRC focuses on private banks, and they are looking mostly for private bankers, private banker assistants, investment specialists, and product specialists.

What kinds of qualifications are private banks looking for?
It depends on the position. For a private banker, they would need to have the ability to gather assets and bring new clients to the bank. For product or investment specialists, they would have to have the experience with products and experience in advising high net worth clients, as well.

People are looking for mid- to senior-level candidates with the right skill sets. Those looking for mid-level positions should have at least five to eight years of experience. Those looking for senior level positions should have at least 10 years of experience.

What can you say about salaries?
Salaries in the financial industry – especially banking – have gone up over the past two years. But it really depends on what the candidate can bring to the table in terms of skills. The salary gap between Singapore and Hong Kong has been narrowing. There used to be a 20 to 30 per cent gap. With the stronger Singapore dollar, that gap has narrowed to just 5 or 10 per cent.

What advice do you have for someone in Hong Kong wishing to further their career in Singapore?
The best advice I can give them is to work with a headhunter or an executive search firm with experience placing people in their sector. They should come with an open mind because the environment in Singapore is quite different from Hong Kong.
For example, the working style here is not as fast-paced as in Hong Kong, which tends to be very fast. There is also the cultural aspect. In Singapore, we don’t speak as much Cantonese. We are also very multicultural, with Malaysians and Indians in addition to the Chinese and Westerners.

James Purdie
Managing Director – Southeast Asia, ConnectedGroup

Can you give an overview of the job situation in the banking and finance sectors in Singapore?
Generally, it’s a mixed market with no clear theme. Different banks seem to be recruiting in different areas as they realign their businesses in line with their new strategies. Some are withdrawing from certain product lines to focus on their key strengths.

Are companies hiring?
Yes, but not in droves. That said, we have never been busier. In Q1 and Q2, we were very strong for ConnectedGroup and we expect a strong finish to Q3. Now, Q4 is traditionally quiet due to the bonus season, but this year has shown unseasonal signs of strong activity, probably due to low bonus expectations again this year.

What can you say about salaries?
Salaries have remained pretty flat for the past two to three years. Average pay increases for job moves is around 15 per cent, as opposed to 20 per cent or over 25 per cent a few years ago.

What qualifications are employers looking for?
It’s hard to qualify for an employment pass in Singapore without at least a degree. A recent change in government policy, meanwhile, has made it harder for companies to hire non-Singaporean staff. This affects the less-qualified candidate more than the highly paid and highly skilled executive. Niche experience is the key. Having a skill which is hard to find will ensure interest in your CV. Job-hoppers are very hard to help.

Can you say something about the working environment in Singapore?
Singapore has a reputation for a better work-life balance, cleaner air and the opportunity to enjoy the outdoor spaces.

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