Banks in Singapore are in the midst of a major drive to hire for operations roles amid booming growth in the city’s financial sector.
The hiring bonanza includes back-office roles related to corporate action, credit administration, trade finance, collateral management and other banking settlement operations. There is also strong demand for roles which are geared towards trade confirmation, trade booking, as well as tracking corporate action events such as mergers and acquisitions which can affect shareholders.
Singapore's hiring binge coincides with a period of transition following annual bonus payouts, while an influx of international banks setting up or expanding their operations in the Southeast Asian financial hub is also putting further pressure on the pool of qualified candidates.
Citi and Standard Chartered are competing for operations talent with local banks DBS, OCBC and UOB.
Leow describes the post-bonus period as “musical chairs”, adding that operations candidates switching firms to international banks are able to secure salary increases of roughly 15 to 20% along with other benefits such as the ability to work from home under a ratio of two days at home for every three-day stretch in the office.
The downturn in global equity markets since the start of the year hasn’t had a meaningful impact upon the hiring plans at banks, although cryptocurrency companies, which were known to pay salary increases of 30 to 50% to lure back-office staff, have largely disappeared from the hiring process.
Melody Leow, senior consultant, banking and financial services at Ambition in Singapore, encourages employers to be creative with their back-office employee retention campaigns in ways that go beyond the usual benchmarks of salary and medical benefits. Inducements to stay should include recognition that employees need job diversity, especially if they’ve been in a role for several years.
“A lot of candidates are looking for growth and progression,” says Leow. “After three years, it’s very ‘BAU’ – it’s mundane on a day to day basis.”
She recommends that employers provide staff with exposure to new products and opportunities to learn, adding that a shift in corporate culture would help cut employee turnover.
Candidates considering an operations role should be aware that such positions can be “very meticulous” and require a high attention to detail, she says. Back-office roles come with the stress of knowing that small errors could end up costing the bank heavily.
Leow says the huge demand for back-office jobs is opening up new career possibilities for those from an alternative education background to business and finance.
“Many of my clients are being a little bit more open to somebody who might not be a 100% direct fit because of the shortage of candidates in the market,” says Leow. She adds that the screening process often includes a higher weighting towards a candidates' aptitude and attitude to learn.
Banks have recently been hiring applicants with undergraduate university degrees that lack direct relevance to banking and finance.
Those without experience or direct training in finance can “pick up and learn” operational roles, says Leow, adding that these jobs require a learning curve of getting to terms with banking products and the relevant admin processes.
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