Overseas candidates still looking for jobs at Singapore banks, despite Coronavirus

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Overseas candidates still looking for jobs at Singapore banks, despite Coronavirus

The outbreak of the Covid-19 coronavirus in Singapore is not yet dissuading many overseas-based candidates from applying to jobs in the country’s banking sector, say recruiters.

“The coronavirus has had absolutely zero impact on the attractiveness of Singapore as a location to move to,” says Richard Aldridge, a director at recruiters Black Swan Group in Singapore. “Singapore is being widely praised in the international press on how it’s dealing with the situation,” he adds. Yesterday World Health Organisation chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus commended Singapore’s efforts in tackling cases of coronavirus – in particular its methods of detection and contact tracing – and said other countries should follow its example.

The coronavirus is rarely mentioned when Hudson’s recruiters speak with overseas job seekers, says Kate Silaeva, head of financial services at the recruitment firm in Singapore. “Singapore is viewed as a clean and safe country with good healthcare,” she says, adding that banks still prefer to hire local candidates whenever possible.

Peter Mohacs, director of front-office financial services at Kerry Consulting, says candidates from Europe, the US and Hong Kong are still interested in Singapore-based jobs. Interestingly, Aldridge says job applications from Hong Kong finance professionals have “noticeably” increased this year. Hong Kong candidates are considering moves because of the 2019 civil unrest and because the territory’s proximity to China has spurred a greater “collective fear of the coronavirus”, driven by memories of Sars, which killed far more people in Hong Kong than in Singapore, he adds. While Singaporean authorities have been praised for their coronavirus policies, the Hong Kong government has been criticised for taking an indecisive approach.   

Oliver Lim, associate director at LMA Recruitment, says some foreign candidates ask “initial questions” about the number of coronavirus cases in Singapore (the total on Tuesday stood at 81, including 29 people who’ve been discharged). “But the view is that the Singapore government has been able to give the population confidence in how it’s controlling the coronavirus,” he adds. Singapore is setting a global “gold standard” for coronavirus case detection, according to a new Harvard University study. So far the outbreak in Singapore has not been widespread.

Angela Kuek, director of search firm Meyer Consulting Group, says many overseas banking candidates are aware that Singapore has a “strong track record” for dealing effectively with imported viruses, thanks to its experience tackling Sars in 2003 and H1N1 in 2009. “Most people considering jobs in Singapore have so far not expressed much concern about the coronavirus. But they are mainly at interview stages, so this may change if the virus situation is different when they received a formal offer,” she adds.

The hiring process can take up to two months for overseas candidates, says Faiz Modak, a senior manager at Robert Walters. “Those who have already started the process are continuing their interviews, while monitoring the situation here. We keep them updated on the latest coronavirus news,” he adds. Banks and recruitment agencies in Singapore are trying hard to keep overseas candidates keen by extending start dates and being “very supportive” if candidates do express concerns about the coronavirus, says Shinjika Shukla, an associate director at Michael Page.

Meanwhile, mainland Chinese candidates are bucking the overall trend, says Lim Chai Leng, senior director of banking and financial services at Randstad. Application rates have declined since 31 January when Singapore began rejecting all new work pass applications for candidates from mainland China (employers may appeal with documentary proof that the applicant has not been to China recently). “This means these people now go down the priority list when being shortlisted for interviews at banks. It’s a particular problem when it comes to certain skillsets in technology,” says Pan Zaixian, founder of headhunters Pan & Co.

Photo by Swapnil Bapat on Unsplash

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