Asia Pacific Outlook: Where are the Jobs?

“In comparison to the investment banking sector, we saw more stable growth in transaction and corporate banking in 2012,” recruitment firm Robert Walters reports on Singapore in its annual Salary Survey released this month. “In Hong Kong, banks sought to hire revenue generators.”

For this year the firm expects employment to remain relatively steady, rather than following the fast pace of growth that occurred several years ago. Salaries are also expected to remain relatively flat for transaction banking in both markets, although Hong Kong could see a slight increase in cash management sales salaries and slight decreases in client services salaries. 

For transaction banking professionals, as well as treasury or cash management professionals within corporates, perhaps the real question is where jobs and salary growth will be generated in 2013. Robert Walters’ staff identify several areas with potentially greater opportunities.

One is the hiring by new market entrants in transaction banking, particularly in Singapore. While they are often less visible than the large multinationals, smaller European firms in particular are reportedly looking towards Asia for growth and need to bring in new staff to set up their transaction banking services. Firms may be hiring several dozen staff apiece and are often looking for experienced transaction banking professionals. The hiring by these new entrants may then lead to hiring to fill vacancies at existing firms. 

Commodity trade finance is a niche sector that is growing in Singapore. Since the island city-state is a hub for commodities trading in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region in particular, as well as a broader global hub in specific sectors like oil. According to Robert Walters, both corporates and financial institutions are hiring in order to strengthen their capabilities.

Specialist knowledge

With the increase in regulatory requirements in the region, financial institutions (FIs) in particular are also hiring regulatory and compliance specialists. However, rather than bringing in individuals with an extensive regulatory or compliance background a number of firms are conducting internal transfers or hiring traders, product specialists and other staff who understand the credit, operational and other risks inherent in the business. Requirements to meet the growing range of local regulatory requirements, as well as to comply with global requirements like Basel III, mean this trend seems likely to continue.

In IT, individuals with mobile or online financial services expertise are in demand. Within FIs, the hiring is more for frontline staff. Programming and support, on the other hand, are often provided by third parties. While mobile and online banking growth is stronger in consumer banking, there is also potential growth within transaction banking.

In terms of location, Robert Walters’ financial services manager, Ailing Huang, says she sees more hiring in Singapore rather than Hong Kong within the transaction banking sector. On the other hand, hiring for hedge funds, private equity firms and equity capital markets is stronger in Hong Kong.

While hiring may not be as robust as in previous years, then, there are clearly still niche opportunities for professionals looking for new opportunities and career growth.  

The full survey can be accessed at


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