The only four jobs where back-office staff in Singapore get pay rises

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Back-office roles in the Singapore banking sector are under threat of automation as banks increasingly develop technology platforms to carry out tedious processing tasks. But even if you’re still employed in an operations job, new data from Robert Walters shows that you face another unwanted challenge: stagnating pay.

The recruitment firm’s new 2020 Singapore salary survey examined 20 operations and support roles (from trade support to collateral management) across three levels of experience: analyst/associate, manager/AVP, and VP/director. Just four of these 20 job functions experienced any year-on-year increases in base salaries, and most of these rises were not across all levels of seniority, as shown in the table below.

Trade finance operations was the exception: pay went up for junior, mid-level and senior professionals, as shown in the table below. For example, the pay range for AVPs in the function was S$72k to S$96k in Robert Walters’ 2019 survey, and it’s now S$75k to S$100k. This is admittedly a small increase, but it still stands out in a survey in which pay predominately flatlined.

The rapid growth of Asian trade finance means banks in Singapore still aren’t culling operations staff in the sector, despite trade finance documentation checking increasingly being automated using machine learning tools. The first half of 2019 marked the third year of sequential growth in global transaction banking revenues, including a “strong performance” in trade finance, according to a September report from research firm Coalition. The Asian region outperformed the rest of the world in H1 in transaction banking, and the top-three players regionally are Citi, HSBC and Standard Chartered.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, private banking support jobs also enjoyed year-on-year base pay hikes, at both analyst/associate and manager/AVP ranks. In the latter, salaries now stand at S$100k to S$120k, a fairly significant rise from S$90k to S$110k just 12 months ago. Private banks from HSBC to Julius Baer have been hiring more relationship managers in Singapore this year and have also been taking on support employees (including assistant RMs, a glorified support role) as a result of new clients coming on board.

The other two operations jobs in which pay has inched up – client services and securities/brokerage operations – are also in the table below.

In April, a report commissioned by the Institute of Banking and Finance and the Monetary Authority of Singapore outlined the jobs most at risk of being displaced by technology. These include not just retail-banking jobs, but also back-office roles in the investment banking sector. For example, product control positions are now under threat because the rise of real-time “cloud-based solutions provided by external service providers” means banks are moving away from manual (i.e. human) PC processes.

Image credit: Jungwoo Hong, Unsplash

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