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Banks and financial institutions in Singapore are having to come up with some creative solutions to bridge the gap between the number of new roles in sustainable finance and the paucity of qualified candidates available locally.

In an effort to fill positions requiring ESG (environmental, social, and governance) qualifications, many firms are looking to transfer personnel internally and provide additional training, according to recruiters.

“If the role isn’t one that requires immediate understanding of the [ESG] subject matter, they are getting people from a governance type background and training them up through a mixture of in-house training and external training,” says John Mullally, regional director of Southern China and Hong Kong financial services at Robert Walters.

He says the available labour pool is the deciding factor when it comes to hiring, as firms in the US and Europe are inclined to search externally for candidates given the longer history of the industry in their regions and the number of potential candidates with high skill levels.

In Singapore, shifting people into these new roles can work as long as they are motivated and committed to learn.

“I’ve seen people move into these ESG roles and within 12 to 18 months while you wouldn’t necessarily classify them as expert, they are certainly capable,” says Mullally, referring to the practices of training up local staff into sustainability roles.

He adds that in many cases banks in Singapore are hiring selectively rather than building big teams.

Recent hires include Jatin Sarvaiya, who joined Standard Chartered earlier this month as director of its net zero programme. His move follows a string of senior ESG appointments in Singapore. In March, Eleonore Dachicourt joined BNP Paribas Wealth Management as head of sustainable and responsible investments for Asia. The following month, ING named Martijn Hoogerwerf as head of sustainable finance Asia Pacific.

In January, Stuart Wilson joined Eastspring Investments as head of sustainability. Last year, Citi relocated Raphael Erasmus from London to Singapore as its head of sustainability and corporate transitions for Asia Pacific. Meanwhile, Deutsche Bank is recruiting for an ESG centre of excellence in Singapore, and UOB has made several key hires in recent months, including recruiting Melissa Moi in January from Bank of America as head of sustainable business.

Singapore-based firms have been gearing up for ESG hires as part of the government’s push for greater compliance with international environmental and sustainability standards. In January, Monetary Authority of Singapore Executive Director Tan Heng Keng warned against the dangers to the fund management industry of “greenwashing” - or paying lip service to the green movement - and laid forth plans to introduce ESG-specific targets for financial products as well as practices within financial services companies.

Internal staff with backgrounds in audit risk and compliance could also be suitable to help fill ESG-related roles, according to Mullally.

For the most part, these internal transfers won’t lead to staff shortages elsewhere in the organisation thanks to a pipeline of candidates from the financial industry that can help fill the vacancies.

“Those roles [in compliance] are not easy to resource, but certainly they are easier to resource than ESG,” says Mullally.

Even though sustainability is gaining momentum within the financial industry, recruitment experts advise against changing track in a banking career without giving thought to the core values behind this new growth area.

“Don’t get into it just because you think its going to give you an opportunity to potentially make more money than you would elsewhere,” says Mullally. “Get into it because you have some degree of interest and belief. You are going to get found out fairly quickly if you don’t fundamentally believe what underpins ESG."

Photo by Jordan Opel on Unsplash

AUTHORChris Oliver Insider Comment

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