Hiring in the rapidly evolving financial services sector here presents a decidedly mixed picture. On the one hand, human resource firms report that banks and other financial institutions are still hiring for certain roles. But on the other, banks are furiously shedding some jobs or moving out of Singapore altogether.
London-based Barclays is cutting about 100 jobs from its information technology operation in Singapore as part of moves to reduce costs, Bloomberg reported on Monday.
The Straits Times understands the bank is moving, rather than cutting, a number of positions from here to its office in India, which covers global functions and are not specific to its work here. The bank wants to take advantage of lower costs as part of efforts to lift operating efficiency. Some staff may relocate to India, and the move is expected to be done over several phases by the end of the year.
Asked for updates, the bank said in a statement: "Barclays continually seeks ways to improve the efficiency of our operating model and meet our commitment on costs and returns for shareholders. In May, we relocated some global technology roles out of Singapore to existing technology hubs, such as India."
On Monday, it said it has identified additional roles involving global activity in Singapore which can be relocated, and said "roles will fall away in Singapore". It added it is working closely with those affected.
This could also have been a result of technical or information technology roles, especially for contract staff, becoming more costly. ManpowerGroup Singapore country manager Linda Teo noted: "As some technical or IT roles are hard to fill in the first place, foreign banks would increase salaries of their existing staff or offer other perks and benefits to retain them. While some banks have their own compensation schemes, salary increments generally range from 3 per cent to 5 per cent."
Mr Frazer Wilson, regional managing partner for the financial services practice at executive recruiter Heidrick & Struggles, said the ASEAN financial services sector has been hit more by the slowdown in China, through the early part of this year.
Many traditional consumer and wholesale banking businesses that have a large exposure to ASEAN economies remain challenged, he said.
It certainly shows, with firms such as ANZ Banking Group reviewing its retail operations in Asia, which could mean more movement of jobs, while Standard Chartered said in January last year it would close its global equities business and axe 4,000 jobs in retail banking.
However, despite the gloom, hiring still goes on. Ms Teo said local and foreign banks are still ramping up their headcounts, but only for certain positions - usually frontline and sales positions such as financial sales consultants, personal bankers and direct sales officers.
"Frontline and sales positions tend to have higher attrition compared to other roles, which explains why banks are still hiring for these positions."
Mr Wilson also said a lot of hiring continues to focus on risk, compliance, and also digital transformation, in line with a global change in these sectors and business models, as financial institutions compete with disruptors.
He added: "Singapore head office institutions that operate outside Singapore, and who are committed to their offshore expansion, are still hiring senior leaders into their businesses." This is particularly the case in asset management and private equity.
These trends are in line with what local banks are doing, with OCBC Bank and United Overseas Bank noting a huge potential in wealth management.
A DBS Bank spokesman said: "In Singapore, some of the areas we have been hiring for include retail banking, wealth management as well as key support functions such as technology and operations, finance, risk and compliance."
The spokesman added that as the bank embarks on its digital journey, it is also hiring more UX (user experience) designers, coders, engineers and data analysts.
Number of jobs Barclays is cutting from its IT operation in Singapore
Number of jobs Standard Chartered said last year that it would axe from its global equities business
This article was first published on September 8, 2016.
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