Banks in Singapore and Hong Kong commit to more tech hiring, despite coronavirus

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Banks in Singapore and Hong Kong commit to more tech hiring, despite coronavirus

Banks in Singapore and Hong Kong are soldiering on with their technology recruitment in March, even as companies in other sectors cut back in the face of the coronavirus outbreak.

Hiring in banking technology remains “robust” in Hong Kong, says Warwick Pearmund, an associate director at search firm Hamlyn Williams. “Banks’ long-term tech needs don’t go away because of the virus. Tech is one of the areas where banks continue to invest, both from a continuity and investment perspective,” he adds.

Danny Kwan, a managing consultant at headhunters Pinpoint Asia, says Hong Kong banks, insurance companies, and buy-side firms are “keeping their tech hiring strong” so far in the first quarter. Most tech transformation projects in the local banking sector were started well before the Covid-19 outbreak. They have not been put on hold and are still fuelling hiring, he adds.

Kwan says decreased footfall into banks’ branches and offices because of the coronavirus will only spur them to invest more in digital platforms. Meanwhile, Hong Kong’s eight new digital banks, which are set to launch later this year, continue to poach technologists from established financial institutions.

It’s a similar story in Singapore. “Many of banks’ strategic tech programmes are already committed and set in motion,” says Patricia Teo, director of Kerry Consulting’s technology practice. In June, the Monetary Authority of Singapore is due to grant licences for up to five new digital banks, which Teo says will spur further tech hiring as the firms “race to build up their digital capabilities”.

Adam Davies, associate director at recruiters iKas International, says banks in Singapore continue to open up new tech vacancies. “It’s still too soon to say if the coronavirus will have a major effect on the tech job market in banking. There isn’t much evidence of a slowdown as yet,” he says, adding that most interviews have been moved to video conference as a precautionary measure.

That’s not to say that banks in Singapore are being gung-ho about their tech recruitment. Teo says she’s noticed more scrutiny of new headcount requests, aside from those already confirmed before the virus outbreak. “Hiring managers at banks are now being queried more about existing competencies in their tech teams, and what they hope to bring on board with any additional 2020 headcounts. But the overall demand for technology professionals is still strong,” says Teo from Kerry.

At DBS, Singapore’s largest bank, 48% of current Singapore-based vacancies are for technology, analytics and digital roles, according to the firm’s careers site.

DBS, Citi, HSBC, Standard Chartered and other major employers of tech professionals in the Singapore and Hong Kong banking sectors will likely receive CVs from former Expedia technologists this month. The online travel company is cutting staff in both cities under plans, announced last week, to trim 3,000 jobs globally as the coronavirus outbreak crimps travelling.

Kwan from Pinpoint Asia says Hong Kong tech hiring is declining in sectors outside of financial services that have been particularly badly impacted by the coronavirus. “If a tech vacancy is in a retail, luxury-goods, travel or manufacturing business, for example, it will very likely be either put on hold or pulled,” he adds.

Away from recruitment, the impact of the virus on the wider tech industry has been brought into sharp relief by the identification of a new Covid-19 cluster at Wizlearn Technologies, Singapore’s largest e-learning company. There were 12 confirmed cases linked to the tech firm on Monday, according to the Ministry of Health. Meanwhile, Twitter told employees in Hong Kong, South Korea, and Japan earlier today that they must work from home.

Banks in Singapore and Hong Kong are trying to stay ahead of the game in case of a Covid-19 outbreak within one of their tech teams. Many technology professionals at banks, for example, are being asked to work across different sites as part of their firm’s  business continuity plans. A technologist from a Singaporean bank told us the ‘split site’ arrangements are working well so far and have been in place since 7 February when the Singapore government stepped up its ‘DORSCON’ disease risk assessment level to orange.

Photo by Arif Riyanto on Unsplash

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