The banking and financial services industry in Singapore has had a challenging past year in the face of macroeconomic issues such as sluggish global growth and geopolitical uncertainty. Nonetheless, the industry has demonstrated remarkable resilience.
Singapore continues to see strong support from Greater China and North Asia. Owing to the country’s status as a strong financial hub, more high-net-worth (HNW) clients from these areas are choosing to diversify their assets in the city-state.
As environmental, social, and governance (ESG) financing gains global significance, there is a growing demand for compliance and cybersecurity talent to help companies keep pace with tightening sustainability reporting guidelines and strengthen their business resilience.
This article offers insights from Randstad Singapore’s 2024 market and salary outlook report, including key labour trends and employer insights on salaries, bonuses, hiring trends and talent expectations.
Download the full report to gain valuable insights for your talent attraction and workforce planning strategy in 2024.
the ESG boom in banking and financial services
Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) financing is becoming increasingly prominent, with banks wary of financing activities or industries that may be contributing to climate change in response to pressure from regulators, customers, investors and the public at large. HSBC and UOB, for example, have announced that they will no longer fund new oil and gas projects.
In 2023, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) launched its Finance for Net Zero Action Plan, expanding the scope of its Green Finance Action plan to include transition financing on top of green finance. Singapore also became the first country to put a date on the application of the International Sustainability Standards Board’s climate reporting standards, requiring listed companies to make climate disclosures from 2025 and larger private companies from 2027.
All this has increased demand from banks for talent with ESG expertise and certifications, and the trend shows no signs of slowing down.
Banks are also expanding their talent search to include non-financial professionals from other industries to meet their business objectives. Sustainability professionals from other industries like energy and manufacturing with experience in data analytics and reporting are joining banks where they can offer greater guidance on ESG strategies.
the pivot to asia
Singapore is seeing an increase in clients from Greater China, including corporations and high-net-worth (HNW) individuals, as well as clients from North Asia markets like Taiwan, Korea, and Japan. This trend is driven in part by economic uncertainty and global events that have affected the European and US markets.
At the same time we see some of the Western banks reassessing their operations in the region to focus on areas where they can compete more effectively. Citigroup, for example, sold its regional consumer banking operations to UOB to focus on wealth management and corporate clients.
That provides opportunities for Asian banks to expand their operations in Singapore, and may also make it harder for foreign banks to attract talent, who may perceive that regional and local banks will provide more regional growth opportunities and greater stability.
There’s also a drive to deepen and institutionalise relationships with HNW clients, providing a wider variety of services both to them and any businesses they may run. That both commands a larger share of wallet and reduces the likelihood of valuable customers switching banks when there are changes to the servicing team.
navigating singapore’s tighter rules on foreign talent
Singapore implemented the COMPASS framework in September 2023 which brought in new requirements for Employment Pass applications in addition to meeting a salary threshold.
Initiatives like COMPASS and the Overseas Networks and Expertise (ONE) pass are aimed at providing greater opportunities to locals and ensuring the inflow of high-calibre talent in Singapore. With clearer directions under a more transparent, albeit stricter framework, talent attraction frameworks are expected to be more deliberate with business growth in mind.
family offices see growth and scrutiny in singapore
Singapore is home to around 59% of all family offices in Asia, with 1,100 based here at the end of 2022 versus 400 in 2020. The country has long made it an aim to attract family investments, and in 2023 provided further incentives by cutting taxes on a wider range of investments in both private and public companies.
At the same time, we’ve seen an increased drive to ensure that the additional investment results in jobs for locals. For example, specifying that family offices must employ at least one non-family member among its investment professionals.
We see particular demand for investment managers and analysts with regional experience, especially those who are multilingual. As licensing and reporting requirements continue to evolve, family offices will also seek talent with regulatory exposure.
crypto winter continues, but BNPL grows
While Singapore had seemed close to becoming the crypto capital of Asia, things never really recovered from the crash of 2022. In October 2023, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) launched a project with 15 other financial institutions to provide cross-border crypto regulation, but whether the market picks up again depends largely on consumer confidence.
While the crypto winter may be far from over, the small but growing Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) segment looks to be strengthening, with two of the best known operators, Atome and Shopback, apparently on track to receive accreditation by early 2024 under a government code of conduct. The market remains relatively small, but is predicted to grow to over US$2 billion by 2028 in Singapore.
A growing BNPL industry will need more digital marketing talent as companies look to acquire new customers, as well as strong tech teams to improve customer experience.
2024 banking and financial services talent trends
With political and economic uncertainty around the world we expect a fairly muted 2024, with most hiring to replace headcounts rather than expand the team. That same uncertainty feeds a desire for job security too, with many preferring to stay where they are rather than taking a chance on a new employer.
That inertia was fed in part by generous bonuses and increments last year due to a very healthy 2022. The bonus payout for banking and financial services talent for outcomes in 2023 is likely to be significantly lower, which may result in candidates being more willing to make a move.
In 2023, we saw offers being made for as high as 25% to 30%. We see that falling to between 12% and 15% in 2024, with anything higher than 20% likely needing an additional layer of approval from head office, leading to longer recruitment times.
For those remaining with their current employer, we expect to see increments in the range of 3% to 5%.
Today, many candidates value flexible work - often in favour of a higher salary. According to the 2023 Randstad Brand Employer Research report, compared to the past two years, job seekers say that having a positive work-life balance is the top value proposition when they choose an employer.
compliance with strong digital skills are high in demand
As data regulations tighten, demand for compliance talent who can automate the analytics and processes required during critical reporting and audits will increase.
Banks will be looking for both data analysts and programmers who can build and maintain the systems needed to deepen their compliance capabilities.
We also see similar skills in demand when it comes to digital banking in the retail banking space. As the government continues to push for a cashless society, we expect to see more job opportunities as banks build their capabilities and resilience to scale and meet the dynamic needs of their customers.
the most in-demand banking and financial services roles in 2024
These are the top 4 most in-demand careers in banking and financial services in 2024:
- Front office – this remains essential to everyone from retail to investment banking
- Risk and compliance – this applies across the sector, but there may be particular demand from companies to prepare for the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) 17 regulations
- Family offices – investment management as well as ancillary services around serving HNW clients
- ESG – banks will be searching for talent with certification or experience from other sectors, such as environmental engineering or consulting
training can win over talent
With less room to win over candidates with cash, employers can put more emphasis on their learning and development strategies to attract talent.
In addition to exposure to growth areas such as ESG, we also see demand from candidates to learn new skills such as coding or, for front office staff, to acquire Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) certifications.
Employers can leverage their workforce development programmes to differentiate themselves from their competitors, and strengthen their talent retention strategies too.
download singapore’s banking and financial services industry 2024 market and salary outlook report.
The 2024 Randstad Singapore’s Market and Salary Outlook report looks at talent analyses, key trends and new salary benchmarks in the following industries:
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