Some global firms are cutting banking jobs in Asia, but that doesn’t mean there’s a glut of candidates on the market across all functions.
In fact, finance recruiters in Singapore and Hong Kong say some vacancies have proved almost impossible to fill in recent months.
1. MD, infrastructure investment banking
“We needed to find an MD for M&A within the infrastructure vertical,” says Farida Charania, Asia Pacific CEO of search firm Nastrac Group in Singapore. “The bank wanted 15 years’ experience in the same industry, covering M&A in Southeast Asia. While it was easy to find capable candidates, getting someone who’d worked a full 15 years in the same sector, market and in M&A was a tough combination. Ultimately the bank relaxed some of the criteria on the sector and geography, and we managed to fill the position.”
2. Quant strategist, equity derivatives
“Hong Kong is lacking in senior quant talent and candidates who have been educated in Hong Kong tend to lag academically behind their internationally educated peers,” says an investment banking headhunter in Hong Kong who asked not to be named. “This role also demanded a very particular set of skills, both mathematically and technically, and there simply wasn’t a deep enough pool of talent here to draw from. We progressed the search into Asia and beyond, but the bank ended up moving someone internally from overseas to fill the job.”
3. IFRS9 implementation in credit risk
“This is a new regulatory standard within IFRS and the talent pool in Singapore is limited,” says Bart Raca, associate director at LMA Recruitment in Singapore. “Most of my candidates had to be brought in from overseas, especially from India, Malaysia and Europe. Finding relevant experience within this field is generally difficult, but this is compounded by the current high demand from other banks who are also hiring. Talent is now very expensive.”
4. Transformation lead, insurance brokerage
“We needed a senior leader who also spoke high-level, fluent English, Mandarin and Cantonese to communicate with C-level stakeholders,” says Kyle Blockley, managing partner of recruitment firm KS Consulting. “Candidates from the big insurance firms were too far removed from the day-to-day change management required, while those from the likes of Accenture were too consultant-focused and didn’t get involved enough in the detail. The experience needed was also hard to find: Lean Six Sigma, business-process improvement, outsourcing and off-shoring, business integration, and cost improvement.”
5. Regional internal audit
More regional roles are opening up in Singapore as banks hire senior staff to manage off-shore employees. But the travel involved can make these jobs a hard sell to candidates. “We have audit and regulatory-review jobs that required working overseas up to 80% of the year,” says Richard Aldridge, a director at recruitment company Black Swan in Singapore. “It can sound glamorous, but it very quickly descends into something that’s difficult to manage around your personal life.”
6. Senior fixed income quant analyst
“The bank requested we find a quant with strong product knowledge of fixed income derivatives,” says Victoria Martin, an executive at search firm Anton Murray Consulting. “But it was also very specific about the level of risk experience and software knowledge that the candidate had to have. There was nobody with that experience locally, so we’ve now had to expand our search regionally.”
7. Banking HR
“There’s a big shortage of HR people in Asia with 10 to 15 years’ experience. Several roles we’ve worked on recently have taken up to six months to fill, with candidates rejected because they can’t articulate the value they’d add to the business,” says Ben Batten, country general manager at recruiters Volt in Singapore. “It’s not a lack of relevant finance-sector experience, it’s that banks are expecting them to demonstrate strategic expertise, such as tackling compensation plans and other complex issues. Banks want people who are hands-on – who can, for example, sit down with front office-staff to understand their challenges.”