It has not been a great three months to be looking for a banking job in Hong Kong or Singapore. Some banks (notably HSBC and Standard Chartered) have frozen their hiring in response to Covid-19, while interview processes have slowed down across the Asian finance sector.
Nevertheless, there are some jobs in banking in which recruitment is staying strong, or even increasing, during the pandemic. If you work in one of these functions, consider yourself in demand.
“Covid-19 and its quick spread have, for better or for worse, exposed the ineffectiveness of many banks’ business continuity plans, and banks are now looking to strengthen them,” says Faiz Modak, senior manager for financial services transformation and technology at Robert Walters. “This means operational risk roles will continue to be in demand as banks look to establish more effective teams, or upskill existing ops-risk teams,” he adds.
As we reported last week, about half the Singapore-based vacancies that have survived Standard Chartered’s hiring freeze have a security focus to them. Rising demand for cyber security professionals is also an industry-wide trend during the Covid-19 outbreak as customers increase their use of banks’ digital platforms and staff work from home on potentially less secure systems, says Emily Tan, executive director of financial services at Kerry Consulting.
“Credit analysis is another area that will remain in demand due to the coronavirus, which is disrupting economies and credit markets worldwide,” says Tan. “The intense credit pressure will take a toll on banks’ credit viability and ratings, resulting in a need for enhanced credit reviews,” she says. Asia-focused banks are likely to face balance sheet pressures in excess of those originally forecast in February, before Covid-19 became a global pandemic.
Tech jobs at the new virtual banks
Even as Stan Chart freezes almost all its Hong Kong hiring, it continues to recruit tech professionals into Mox, the stand-alone virtual bank that it is launching later this year. Tencent-backed Fusion Bank is also among the eight new Hong Kong online banks that are recruiting. Meanwhile in Singapore, the granting of digital banking licences has been pushed back to the second half of the year. These H2 licence approvals will trigger demand for tech professionals who can “set up the systems and infrastructure for these firms”, says Modak from Robert Walters. “We expect demand for cloud, cyber security, architecture and digital transformation professionals,” he adds.
“We’re noticing that restructuring professionals at banks are now in demand,” says Kate Silaeva, head of financial services at Hudson. “This skillset is not so well developed in Asia compared to some European countries, and therefore professionals with solid track records in restructuring are highly paid,” she adds.
Within corporate banking in Singapore and Hong Kong, expertise in cash management remains in demand during the current crisis. “Due to revenue slowing down and cash flow issues rising across the majority of businesses, cash management teams are very busy adjusting their routine operations and setting up new processes that will provide companies with solutions in these challenging times,” says Silaeva.
Relationship managers are currently “very busy” discussing margin calls, credit lines, wealth preservation, and portfolio diversification with clients, says Andrew Zee, team lead for private banking, and corporate and investment banking at Selby Jennings. And firms such as Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Nomura, which all announced private banking expansion plans in January, are still hiring. Zee expects the job market to surge once the pandemic starts to ease, and RMs who have successfully guided their clients through the current turmoil will be particularly in demand.
Technology professionals who can help banks further automate both front and back-end systems are in demand in 2020. In a March report on the impact of Covid-19, McKinsey says the pandemic has forced Asian banks to “significantly accelerate their shift to digital channels”. They have not only leaned more heavily on existing digital channels, but have also “accelerated” the move to digitised core-banking processes such as electronic KYC, digital signature collection, and online document submission.
It’s not the most glamorous banking technology job, but it’s become even more in demand as employees working from home require additional help when systems run slowly or fail, say recruiters in Hong Kong and Singapore. IT support professionals are also tasked with getting monitors delivered to homes, and ensuring remote employees have access to the right cables, keyboards and software.
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Photo by Kolleen Gladden on Unsplash