Q1 2018 market outlook: banking in singapore.

With majority of the banks citing digital transformation as a business priority this year, investments in technology will continue to drive sector efficiency as well as strengthen risk management and compliance capabilities.

Major banks have announced their plans to increase their front office sales team across retail, wealth banking and corporate banking businesses to capture upcoming market opportunities. With Singapore as the financial gateway to major Asian markets, talent with regional experience are increasingly in demand due to their strong market networks and knowledge of in-country legislations.

front office

In Q1 this year, the private wealth management sector in Singapore saw a couple of major senior management moves from established private banks to boutique private banks. Boutique banks were actively hiring top talent not only to strengthen their leadership team, but also initiate a re-architecture of their platform to stay competitive in the wealth management sector. Private bankers continued to be in highly sought-after, particularly in the Greater China and NRI markets. Digitalisation within the private banking sector also created more job openings within the digital products and advisory space, resulting in a strong demand for specialist talent with niche skill sets in these areas.

compliance and risk

We observed a healthy demand for risk and compliance professionals - not just due to attrition but also an increase in newly created headcounts. Compliance professionals specialising in the Anti-Bribery and Corruption, Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) and the Common Standard on Reporting (CRS) regulations were highly sought after as banks continued to strengthen their anti-bribery and corruptions measures to combat money laundering activities, in addition to CRS reporting that all banks have to comply with. 
An area where we saw a surge in demand for compliance professionals is in the fintech and payments space, as there were substantial funding into new startups to accelerate operations. In fact, we have already witnessed a number of senior compliance professionals moving out of banking and into these fintech companies. We foresee an even greater spike in demand for compliance professionals from regulated entities once the Payment Services Bill is passed, and that this trend would provide compliance talent an alternative career progression opportunity.

Experienced credit risk professionals continued to be in demand as they work closely with the relationship managers on credit evaluations and structuring to mitigate risk exposures to the minimum. We also observed banks strengthening their front office credit team, whilst keeping their credit risk management team lean.

back office operations

A number of major banks have indicated that their focus for 2018 is to continue to investing in automation or offshore operations to Shared Services teams based out of Singapore. This drove the demand for mid-level experienced hires, particularly at the AVP level as they tend to be more well-rounded and have a greater ability to resolve critical business issues. Candidates specialising in Know Your Customer (KYC) and derivatives operations were also keenly sought after as there was a limited pool of mid-level talent in these areas within the local market.

Hiring at the junior levels were mainly for contract workers, where we saw a good 30% of contractors being converted to permanent headcounts whenever they become available. As banks executed their digital transformation agenda with increased investments in automation and robotics, we saw a corresponding demand for talent with experience in data science, artificial intelligence and machine learning.

project and change management

With the objective of achieving cost reduction and optimising efficiency through automation, a number of banks have stepped up their investments for resources to manage risk and regulatory-related projects as well as automate manual processes. Many of them were looking to leverage artificial intelligence and robotics to achieve faster processing time and reduce marginal transaction costs to zero. Banks were tapping into both internal and external talent pools for the project and change space. The internal candidates generally come with BAU domain knowledge, while the external hires were either external consultants or sourced from competing institutions. Some of the key prerequisites for such project and change management talent include scrum certification as well as programming language, in addition to the mandatory relevant product or process knowledge.

finance

Finance hires in banking remained stable in Q1 as movements were typically observed only after bonus payout in Q2. However, in Q1, we observed banks creating new headcounts in the MAS reporting functions. This could be due to an increase in projects requiring customising of reporting formats as well as business finance functions generating more in-depth finance analytics to support strategic decision-making. Candidates with liquidity and capital management reporting experience were also well sought-after.

contracting

We expect contracting hires within the banking sector to maintain its growth in 2018, as banks continued to face difficulties in securing permanent headcounts. Additionally, they are also looking at contractors to supplement their existing full-time workforce, which is currently fully stretched to cope with not only BAU tasks, but also to take on other more challenging projects.

Due to the constant regulatory pressures, we have also observed a steady flow of demand for contractors in compliance, particularly in the areas of transaction monitoring, communications surveillance and anti-money laundering (AML). Much of the demand was for entry level contractors performing BAU roles as well as professional contractors at VP level and above. These contract professionals are typically sought after for tenures ranging between 6 to 12 months, to help organisations drive project and change management in the areas of operational change, regulatory change and reporting projects.

bonus expectations

The bonus payouts for 2018 were reportedly much better than anticipated, in line with the larger banks’ strong performance the previous year. This was partly due to more fee income, as well as the effects of streamlining businesses and achieving cost efficiencies. The average bonus for banking talent ranged between 2.5 to 3.5 months, while annual salary increment remains at 1.0 to 3.5% for most employees, except for those who have been promoted or taken on new responsibilities.

free report: banking outlook & salary snapshot

If you would like a copy of this outlook along with the latest Singapore banking salary snapshot, kindly reach out to me. I would love to share the PDF report with you and learn more about your talent needs.

about the author

Lim Chai Leng - Director

A seasoned specialist with more than 15 years’ experience in the banking and financial services sector, Chai Leng currently leads one of the largest Banking & Financial Services recruitment team in Singapore. She understands what it takes for organisations to drive productivity and efficiencies, and works with senior HR and business leaders on their talent and hiring needs.

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