The six most popular career changes in Asian banking for 2019

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Career changes Asian banking

It’s 2019. As banking professionals in Asia start preparing to search for new roles in the new year, an increasing number of them are also contemplating more fundamental career changes.

Recruiters in Singapore and Hong Kong say they have noticed an uptick in candidates contacting them about shifting into new parts of the banking sector. This is, of course, far from straightforward – and is only possible in a limited range of job functions. If you’re thinking of making a major job move yourself, these are the sectors where you’re most likely to succeed.

Infrastructure engineering into cyber security

Cyber security specialists are in high demand in Singapore as banks expand their digital platforms while tackling the growing threat of attacks targeting the Republic. But banks in Singapore aren’t just filling their ranks by poaching from rivals. They’re also encouraging staff from other functions, especially junior to mid-level infrastructure engineers, to move internally into cyber security roles. “Cyber security operations is the easiest route into cyber security, and it’s also the role most open to infra engineers,” says April Jimenez, a senior consultant at recruiters Huxley in Singapore.

Asset management fund distribution into private banking

“The booming private banking market in Asia is attracting talent from other sectors. For example, institutional asset management fund distribution specialists are being hired into private banking as fund specialists,” says Jack Metters, principal consultant of private banking and wealth management at recruiters Selby Jennings in Hong Kong. “Corporate finance professionals in investment banking are also being recruited into private banking to provide ultra-high net worth clients with financing solutions,” he adds.

TMT bankers into corporate development

Chinese technology firms are increasingly building large in-house corporate development teams and are recruiting Hong Kong investment bankers to help them with takeovers and listings. “I’m seeing more and more Chinese tech corporates hiring bankers,” says Hubert Tam, managing partner at search firm Sirius Partners in Hong Kong. Chinese tech companies want to grow overseas and are interested in bankers who have cross-border deal expertise. The corporate development ranks of both Alibaba and Tencent, for example, are full of ex-bankers.

Commodities salespeople into commodities companies

Commodities salespeople at banks are moving to in-house roles at commodities companies in Singapore, says Angela Kuek, director of search firm Meyer Consulting Group. This career change combines both push factors away from banking (redundancies at FICC teams at global banks) and pull factors into the corporate sector (commodities firms continue to expand in Singapore, the industry’s Asian hub). “They usually go to an ex-client and look after the financing structures for the company, liaising with banks on its behalf,” says Kuek.

Everything into audit

“I’ve recently seen more people from a non-audit background moving into the audit function in Asia,” says a Hong Kong-based recruiter. “The main examples have been from operations, trading, technology and risk. The reason banks hire them – in addition to their potential for developing strong audit skills – is because of their subject-matter expertise in the areas they will be auditing. In this market, where it’s important to identify the next big control gap, someone with first-hand knowledge of their space potentially has a lot to offer in audit.”

Sell-side operations to buy-side operations

With large banks still offshoring back-office roles away from Singapore and Hong Kong, some operations people are seeking sanctuary in the buy-side. “We had a candidate who moved from an investment bank to an investment management firm, focusing on derivatives operations,” says Orelia Chan, an associate director at Pure Search in Singapore. “The employer initially preferred someone from the buy-side, but they realised that some operations skills are transferable, so they became open to banking candidates with the right product knowledge, managerial experience and personality fit.”

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Image credit: ArtRachen01, Getty

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