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Pushy local candidates in Singapore want it all.

It’s not all about money: pushy Singapore banking professionals demand better hours

If you’re a Singapore citizen or permanent resident and you work in a sought-after function in banking, a big salary rise is likely well within your reach if you move jobs. But that’s not all you might consider pushing for: better work-life balance, a speedy job offer, and long-term career development are increasingly on local job seekers’ minds.

As restrictions on visas and travel during Covid stymie the flow of foreign professionals into the Republic, locals are generally in the box seat when looking for new jobs and negotiating terms of job offers. While this isn’t the case in roles where there is a surplus of homegrown talent (e.g. operations), the impact of immigration controls is amplified in functions already suffering from skill shortages, in particular technology. Singapore citizens make up only 35% of the tech workforce in the finance sector, according to Monetary Authority of Singapore figures. Wealth management employees are similarly in demand, while there are still talent gaps in compliance and risk.

“These days, if I’m looking for work, I know I can push the company on pay and on all sorts of other stuff too, like working hours. That was almost off the table 18 months ago,” says a Singaporean technologist who works for a US bank. “Locals realise that banks want to hire us, and remote working during Covid has made it acceptable now in Singapore to raise issues like work-life balance,” he adds.

Work-life balance is ranked top, along with “attractive salary and benefits”, as the most important factor Singapore-based employees look for in a job, according to a survey released this week by Randstad. This is the first time it’s come out on top in the survey’s 10-year history.

Although the data isn’t specific to the finance sector, recruiters say the trend is prevalent in banking. Flexible or hybrid working – splitting time between home and the office – wasn’t common in Singapore before the pandemic, says Marie Tay, managing director of The Resolute Hunter, but it’s now emerging as a key demand of candidates in banking.

“Most locals have gone from working 100% in the office to working mainly from home. Over the long term, including post-pandemic, they want a flexible mixture of both, because they think this will help their work-life balance. That’s a huge cultural shift in a country that’s never really embraced the concept of work-life balance. I’m getting more questions about working hours that I ever have in the past from Singaporeans in banking. People wouldn’t mention it so much in the past.” she adds.

Aside from work-life balance, local candidates are also demanding “slick” hiring processes and some are pulling out of interviews because of delays, says Richard Aldridge, a director at recruiters Black Swan Group. “The recruitment process can quite easily be the decisive factor in the current market – job seekers are demanding efficiency and consistent messages from banks, and they want to feel ‘wanted’,” he adds.

Local job seekers in banking are also becoming pushier when negotiating other parts of their packages, such as annual leave, medical cover, and career development opportunities, says Paul Newell, business director for banking and financial services at Hays. “To come to an agreement, there needs to be give and take on both sides. The last 18 months have put significant pressure on banks and their staff and candidate still need to be realistic about their expectations, putting long-term potential over short-term gain,” he adds.

Photo by Hasin Farhan on Unsplash

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

AUTHORSimon Mortlock Content Manager

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