Investment banks in Singapore are reducing front-office recruitment and axing junior jobs as regional revenues plummet.
Southeast Asian investment banking revenue stands at US$319m so far this year – the worst performance in 12 years for the period and down 37% from 2015, according to Dealogic data.
Front-office investment banking vacancies in Singapore have fallen significantly year-on-year as a result, say headhunters.
Farida Charania, Asia Pacific CEO of search firm Nastrac Group in Singapore, puts the annual decline at “nearly 70%” for senior vacancies.
“Classic investment banking – M&A and corporate advisory – is a mug’s game in Singapore,” adds former Deutsche Bank managing director Tanmai Sharma, now CEO of Singapore start-up Mesitis Capital.
“There are frequent layoffs, and the MDs that survive make the money while the rest just whittle away their lives and work every weekend,” he adds. “Capital markets used to have a better run than M&A, but now even these are having a tough time.”
As in Hong Kong, investment banking layoffs have until recently largely been confined to expensive directors and managing directors.
But now investment banks in Singapore are also culling underperforming junior and mid-level staff. “It’s no longer just the seniors, but across all levels,” says former ANZ banker Jerald Chen, now a recruiter at Kerry Consulting in Singapore.
Firms that have made cuts below director rank in Singapore include Barclays, Credit Suisse and HSBC, says a headhunter with knowledge of the firms who asked not to be named.
Equity capital markets (ECM) bankers should be feeling the most ill-at-ease about their jobs. ECM has led the overall decline in investment banking revenue in Southeast Asia, falling to US$44m year-to-date, the lowest level since 2003.
“The equity markets have been hardest hit, and several European banks had downsized their capital market teams in Singapore,” says Gary Lai, managing director for Southeast Asia at recruitment firm Charterhouse Partnership.
And although investment banks are continuing to cut headcount in Hong Kong, industry sources suggest the front-office job market is even worse in Singapore.
“Market sentiment in Singapore investment banking is less buoyant compared to Hong Kong, especially when we don't have as many companies as Hong Kong and China, so there are fewer deals to close in the first place,” says Lyn Sia Rosmarin, a former Merrill Lynch director turned-entrepreneur who has worked in both cities.
“The overall fall in revenue in Southeast Asia makes it less attractive for bankers to be based in Singapore as opposed to North Asia,” adds Lai from Charterhouse.
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