Banking & Finance – Where the Hot Jobs Are

By Adrian Tang, Director of Talent Acquisition and Vyon Ng, Consulting Manager

The banking & finance industry has evolved significantly in the last few years since the Great Recession of 2008/9. The growth opportunities in the various sectors within this industry have also shifted in response to changing market dynamics. Where are they now and what are some of the industry trends you should be aware of?

Of all the industries, banking & finance is most closely tied to the health of the economy. When the economy is good, the banks will be hiring and when the economy is not doing well, the banks will trim headcounts and downsize. Currently, the industry is still experiencing healthy growth levels, especially the Asian banks, and this is accompanied by the opening of new branches of commercial banks in Singapore.

In the finance arena, the insurance sector is still doing well however it is the brokerages and fund management firms that are more cautious in their business plans and hiring. In the banking sector, corporate banking and asset management are fairly status quo, taking a conservative approach to both business expansion and hiring.

Hot Jobs: Wealth Management

The hottest jobs in the industry are to be found in private banking: wealth management, in particular. This is an area that is currently seeing the greatest expansion and as such, has the highest hiring budgets.

The growing demand for such wealth management services is due to three main factors. Firstly, the last financial crisis has heightened awareness and made clients more savvy about investments. Secondly, there has been a lot of economic activity in the Asia Pacific in recent years and thriving economies like China has boosted economic prosperity in the region, accelerating the accumulation of wealth in Asia. Finally, we are witnessing an increasing trend of inter-generational wealth management whereby rich families pass on their wealth to the next generation and there is a need to generate more wealth from the inheritance in order to pass it on to future generations. All these have given rise to a higher demand for a wider and more complex range of investment products, resulting in a greater need for talent to manage the wealth of all these affluent individuals.

Due to the last financial crisis, risk management and compliance positions are also now more in demand than before, as businesses see the need to better manage operational risks.

Having said that, candidates considering these roles should note that the banks have very stringent selection criteria for these specific positions. These days, they are looking for more specialised experience in line with the specific role or portfolio so you won’t see much crossovers across the different sectors within banking & finance. For example, if you want to go for a position in private banking or wealth management, you have to already have experience in this arena.

Additionally, we are seeing some clients with even more rigorous requirements, such as only wanting candidates from specific banks that have a strong reputation for wealth management in the industry, or if the position available is in a boutique bank, the criteria is that the candidate must come from a more established bank that is recognised for its wealth management business.

Fresh Grads Wanted

Overall, we find that most of our clients in the banking sector have a preference for local university graduates with street smarts. Many fresh graduates may also not be aware that many banking companies are now stepping up their management trainee programmes, which is designed to groom these young talents to management, especially for roles where there is a talent shortage.

In the long run, these management trainee programmes will help banks create a culture of talent development and tap into new sources of talent, as the tightening of the foreign labour policies and companies’ own cost-cutting measures causes less expatriates to be hired into Singapore to assume some of these management roles. Having said that, the criteria for many of these management trainee programmes is that graduates need to be in the top 5% of their cohort.

In light of the prevailing market conditions, fresh graduates should be practical and expect a salary range of $2,400 up to $3,000, if you have a good attitude, street smarts, and a good degree coupled with an internship with direct exposure to the relevant portfolio.

Advice for Candidates

As mentioned above, the banks are looking for relevant experience so if you are hoping to hop from one bank to another for a different position or portfolio, the likelihood of success is not high. If you’re already in the banking industry and a switch in job scope is what you’re after, it is best to go for internal progression within your current bank to gain the relevant experience before you make the jump.

Another option is to get what’s called an “internal referral”. For example, you have a friend working in a top bank and he or she is able to give you a strong recommendation to bring you in. However, this friend needs to be someone with hiring authority.

So now, more than ever, the most important means in your career progression is to network, network, network.