Singapore bankers are looking for jobs again, but it's not like 2019

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Singapore bankers are looking for jobs again, but it's not like 2019

The busy hiring season after Chinese New Year is typically fuelled as much by banking professionals wanting to move after receiving their bonuses as it is by banks expanding their headcounts. Last year’s post-bonus hiring in February/March was subdued as candidates pulled back on changing jobs during the initial outbreak of the pandemic.

A degree of confidence is now slowly returning to the banking job market as Singapore continues to manage the pandemic comparatively well. The Republic has suffered 29 Covid deaths, one of the world’s lowest rates per head of population, and much of the economy has reopened. “Candidate confidence is trending up. There’s more openness to consider opportunities as there’s renewed confidence that the worst of Covid is behind us in Singapore, and that there’ll be new hiring plans at banks for 2021,” says headhunter Angela Kuek, director of Meyer Consulting Group.

But this is not a 2019 job market, fuelled by people job hopping. “Candidate confidence is rebounding in banking compared with 2020, but from a fairly low base. I don’t believe confidence has reached pre-Covid levels as many job seekers are still cautious in the current economic climate,” says Gary Lai, managing director, South East Asia, at Charterhouse Partnership.

“Confidence among job seekers has picked up with the easing of local Covid-related mobility restrictions and the feel-good news on vaccination rollouts,” says Pan Zaixian, founder of headhunters Pan & Co. “However, the worsening global situation on Covid is a counterbalance to a fuller recovery in the Singapore job market. Candidates still tend to be opportunistic about applying for roles, as opposed to being overtly active in job hunting,” he adds.

Marie Tay, managing director of The Resolute Hunter, says banking professionals in Singapore are taking a “defensive” approach to job searching. Many of the candidates she sees are looking for new roles only because they fear redundancies in their departments.  

The job market is improving, but cautious sentiment from 2020 lingers, says Alex Martin, manager of financial services at Robert Walters. “People are seeking out stability and opportunities for progression, while also prioritising access to employee benefits such as wellness programmes and flexible working,” he adds. “Candidates are putting a greater emphasis on the stability of the new role and the long-term career path,” says Tay.

Some groups of banking professionals in Singapore are more enthusiastic about finding new jobs. Several firms are expanding in private banking (e.g. Nomura) and wealth management (e.g. Citi), and they are hiring both relationship managers and middle-office professionals. “Candidates in these areas know this, and are confident that they’d be in a prime position, if they were to move roles,” says David Bolland, a senior consultant in the financial services team at Hudson.

Photo by Caesar Aldhela on Unsplash

Have a confidential story, tip, or comment you’d like to share? Email: smortlock@efinancialcareers.com or Telegram: @simonmortlock. You can also follow me on LinkedIn.

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