q2 2018 market outlook: banking in singapore.

Following Q1’s strong economic growth that was partly driven by the finance and insurance sectors, we observed increased hiring activities from front to middle back office operations among banks in Q2. The hiring activities were also expedited as a result of employee attrition after bonus payout.

Increased hiring activities were reported in retail and wealth management banks, while institutional banks practised more caution through targeted and strategic growth areas. Hiring accelerated within the Investment Management and Private Equity space, especially in sector-focused areas such as technology (including fintech) and life sciences.

The banking industry maintained its pursuit of the digital transformation agenda to create efficiencies and prepare itself for the growth ahead. Banks expanded their technology investments beyond customer experience to support functions, including rolling out artificial intelligence (AI) to boost talent attraction and engagement.


wealth and bancassurance: innovation-led recruitment activities

Banks and insurance companies have made it the first priority to grow their frontline sales to expand the retail and wealth management business. We observed strong competition in the two segments particularly Bancassurance and Investment products. While banks are driving towards digitization to replace over-the-counter service, the advisory business continues to rely on their sales force to help them attain market share.

In an effort to enlist the best talent in this fiercely competitive market, banks took an innovative approach to integrate AI into their hiring processes. These solutions have the potential to help banks identify talent and speed up the recruitment process. Companies with proactive recruiting strategies stood a better chance at attracting active and passive candidates needed to manage the onset of business growth.

Major banks are committed to continue their efforts in hiring Relationship Managers (RMs) and Product Specialists in Investment and Bancassurance, leading to competitive salary offers for candidates in these functions.


corporate and SME banking: battle for market share

Hiring activities geared up in the SME and Corporate Banking segments following bonus payout in Q1.

The demand for Acquisition Bankers focusing on cash products and loans in the SME banking space had led to talent movements within local and foreign banks. Relationship Managers (RMs) with experience in serving middle market corporates were highly sought-after. This is due to the growth potential in this segment as well as untapped areas; often requiring banking solutions such as loans, trade finance, treasury, transactional banking and investment banking solutions.

On the institutional banking front, we saw new headcounts created for RMs targeting Non-Bank Financial Institutions, specifically focusing in Private Equity, Hedge Funds and Investment Management firms.

In a bid to attract high-performing RMs, hiring managers increased their budgets to offer competitive salaries. As RMs focus more on client acquisition and marketing, there was an increased in sales support such as Relationship Officers to support client onboarding, know-your-customer (KYC) review and credit related work.


asset management and private equity: sector-focused growth

Hedge Fund and Private Equity Asset Management firms ramped up their hiring activities for both front and back offices in Q2. More specifically, companies sought candidates with in-depth knowledge and prior experience in emerging markets or key sectors such as technology or healthcare. However, the increased demand for this group of talent was offsetted by the supply of eligible candidates from the sell side. This resulted in a more stringent talent selection process and hiring managers had also increased their recruitment budget to secure the best talent.

We continued to see high demand for Fund Administrator Providers serving real estate and private equity funds in Q2. Due to the limited talent pool, strong candidates with commendable client servicing skills received a notable increment in their base salaries when they moved to a new company.


compliance & risk: changing talent needs in a controlled environment

While global companies continued with their business restructuring agenda, Asian banks are doubling up on controls and sought to hire senior-level compliance professionals who can navigate this increasingly complex environment.

Despite this shift, the overall hiring activity for compliance talent is expected to slow down over the next six to twelve months as companies look to explore technology integration to improve efficiencies and re-train their staff in proprietary compliance technology as part of their digital transformation journey.

With the increasingly controlled environment in Private and Wholesale business, professionals in the business and risk assurance were highly sought-after. Hiring managers turned to explore the alternative pool of experienced operation staff who have a good appreciation of risk management to manage the evolving requirements and close the gap for talent demand.

Analytics continue to play a pivotal role in the banking ecosystem for better informed business strategies and management decisions. There were a surge in demand for talent to support business and risk functions where banks continue to enhance the advanced analytics in marketing, customers, products and risk management.


back office: resumes on hiring permanent staff

We saw a growing trend of employees who took advantage of internal mobility programmes by shifting to risk and project management roles within the bank to gain greater exposure and further their careers. As a result, the middle and back offices hurried to hire replacements to manage attrition within their teams.

In a bid to achieve cost efficiencies, financial institutions outsourced key functions to third-parties that lend more expertise; or shifted parts of their businesses to a lower cost country. This was prevalent in larger banks as we saw senior-level candidates being relocated to other countries. Mid-sized banks that demonstrated their commitment to keep its operational functions in Singapore continued to look at re-training and upskilling their staff in client servicing functions to gain a competitive edge.

Regulatory reporting is a top priority for financial institutions and is more important now than ever due to the changes in regulatory reporting requirements (e.g MAS 610). Financial professionals with experience in regulatory reporting were highly sought-after in both project capacity and BAU reporting. We also saw an increased demand for financial professionals in Management Information System.


contracting: talent demand in front office

Contracting hires maintained its growth in Q2 for roles across front to back office operation functions in Corporate, Private and Investment banks. In addition to the usual demands in KYC roles, companies sought additional contract support for front office, trade finance, settlements and finance change.

Requirements for front office support such as Assistant Relationship Manager in wealth management had increased due to ‘post-private bank integration’ and the expansion among front office teams. As more banks move from the front office client service model to a shared service support model, the immediate Assistant RMs pool has expanded to cater to demand in contract work in the front office space.


free report: banking outlook & salary snapshot

If you would like a copy of this outlook along with the latest Singapore banking salary snapshot, 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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