Financial institutions in Singapore are on the hunt for people who can speak business-level Mandarin as Chinese firms increasingly seek investment opportunities in Southeast Asia – with the Republic at the centre of their plans.
“Chinese firms are looking to establish international headquarters in Singapore in order to go global,” says Michael Page Singapore managing director Nilay Khandelwal. Bank of China and other mainland banks are hiring in Singapore on the back of the expansion of mainland clients, particularly in the tech sector. Tencent, ByteDance and Alibaba are all using Singapore as a beachhead into Southeast Asia.
Meanwhile, Singapore-based firms are also hiring people with business Mandarin skills as they expand into the Chinese market or serve more Chinese clients. DBS, for example has been growing its Chinese operations after acquiring a 13% stake in mainland bank SZRCB last year. In January, DBS announced that it is buying Citi’s Taiwan retail business and taking over 3,500 staff.
Lim Chai Leng, senior director of banking and financial services at Randstad Singapore, says local retail banks grew their Greater China businesses by 175% from 2010 to 2020 – helping Singapore retain its stronghold as a top regional financial centre for Asian markets.
“Despite the global financial restructuring spurred by the pandemic, Singapore remains stable with the addition of new units and companies, and has expanded into areas such as digital banking, fintech, cryptocurrency, green financing and insurance,” she adds.
So how are firms sourcing talent? Companies are sending staff for business Mandarin courses, or looking to hire candidates with a history of working in North Asia, says Andrew Zee, head of front office at Selby Jennings Singapore. Lim says financial institutions are poaching from competitors, big consultancies, and tech firms.
She says that while Chinese Singaporeans are bilingual in English and Mandarin, it’s still challenging to find staff proficient enough to speak, read and write Mandarin reports, explain technical terms and industry jargon to clients and stakeholders, and comprehend the cultural nuances of Mandarin spoken in mainland China.
For now, though, Mandarin-speaking professionals don’t receive a huge pay bump. Lim says employers are forking out a 5% increment above the usual pay rises. Here are the roles where business-level Mandarin is in demand, according to the three recruiters:
Private equity investment managers
More Chinese family offices and asset managers are setting up Singapore branches, and more local firms are shifting their portfolio to focus on North Asia, resulting in demand for Mandarin-speaking professionals in investment advisory and treasury to explain products to Chinese customers and counterparts.
Private banking RMs
As demand from ultra-high net worth clients from North Asia jumps, firms are looking for Mandarin-proficient relationship managers to expand their client networks. “The aim is to be customer-centric when high net worth individuals prefer to converse in Mandarin,” says Khandelwal.
Corporate banking RMs
Similar to their private banking counterparts, more corporate bankers require business-level Mandarin to ease communications with clients on increased demand from institutional and corporate clients from North Asia, greater portfolio focus on North Asia, and a larger number of Chinese banks setting up offices in Singapore.
Compliance and legal
As more Chinese banks and asset managers set up Singapore branches, compliance and legal professionals in these offices will have to liaise with colleagues from HQ, who prefer to speak and write in business Mandarin.
On the same note, firms need talent to communicate with Mandarin-speaking counterparts to prepare and manage financial statements and reporting between Singapore and mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash
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