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Banks take Hong Kong to Singapore relocations on a ‘case-by-case’ basis

Bank staff continued to relocate to Singapore from Hong Kong in 2022, although big banks say that this is not part of a concerted push.

A senior HR professional at an international bank said banks have facilitated relocations at the request of staff, but are not actively shifting resources out of Hong Kong.

The professional said the bank had allowed a handful of staff to move depending on whether they were top performers. “It’s been very much on a case by case basis,” he added.

Banks have been building out their presence in South-East Asia, enabling Singapore to steal a march on Hong Kong by operating with fewer restrictions. But bankers say many moves are temporary and dependent on personal circumstances.

For example, Caroline Hsu, the co-head of financial sponsors for APAC at UBS Investment bank, has temporarily moved to Singapore for family reasons. “It has nothing to do with any strategic shift,” said a source.

China’s move to relax Covid restrictions following demonstrations has been welcomed as a potential catalyst for a recovery in investment banking revenues in 2023.

“When you look at fee pools, Hong Kong and Greater China are still the big revenue generators. 2022 has been tough but as China re-opens, activity will rebound,” said one M&A banker at a US firm.

Another banker who relocated to Singapore told eFinancialCareers that the move had been more expensive than they anticipated. “We thought we’d save a fortune, but school fees have gone up massively with an influx of expats. By contrast, I talk to my friends back in Hong Kong and the waiting lists for international schools have disappeared.”

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