Banks in Hong Kong and Singapore are taking on more contractors, especially in their technology teams, as they look to fill urgent roles without adding to their permanent hiring budgets, which have been cut because of Covid-19.
Hiring levels for permanent jobs at banks have “reduced dramatically” since February, while contracting vacancies are now increasing, says Rupert Hay, associate director of financial services recruitment at Morgan McKinley in Hong Kong. Asia-focused Standard Chartered and HSBC have both imposed recruitment freezes, while DBS said on Thursday that it will be more cautious about adding new staff this year.
Banks are using contractors both to get around cost restrictions on new headcount, and to complete critical projects in functions that have become more in demand during the pandemic, says Emily Tan, executive director of financial services at Kerry Consulting in Singapore.
Many of the contracting roles on offer in Asia are in technology as banks deal with unexpected surges in usage of their digital platforms from customers performing more transactions online and from staff working remotely.
“The contracting market remains buoyant. Covid-19 is forcing banks to realise that they need better infrastructure and more digital transformation,” says Serene Tan, deputy director of LMA Recruitment in Singapore. “Tech candidates are being hired on a contractual basis to complete these projects. Given that many banks have hiring freezes, the costs are typically tied to a project budget,” she adds.
Developers, architects, project managers, and business analysts are in demand within technology teams. Other hotspots for contractors at large banks include compliance, finance and human resources, says Angela Chan, director of Page Personnel in Hong Kong.
It’s not all good news in the Asian contracting job market, which is dominated by the likes of Citi, HSBC, Stan Chart and DBS. While the number of contractor openings is increasing, the average duration of these roles has shortened, says Hong Kong-based Keith Wong, country director of Links International. Contracts of over 12 months are now rare as banks become more wary about making longer-term commitments in uncertain market conditions. Both the Hong Kong and Singapore economies are set to plunge into recession.
Interview processes are taking longer because even contract roles now require extra layers of managerial approval, says Glen Chua, a senior manager at Robert Walters in Singapore. Banks in Singapore are implementing remote onboarding and induction processes for contractors during Singapore’s current circuit breaker period, he adds.
Meanwhile, European banks in Hong Kong are finding it harder than their US and Asia counterparts to get contract roles approved, says Chan. “European banks appear most affected by Covid-19 and have more projects being put on hold,” she adds.
Photo by Virginia Johnson on Unsplash
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