How to get your big break into Asia

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We've all heard about how recruitment in Asia is outpacing the rest of the planet, but that doesn't mean foreigners are walking into financial-sector roles. Some job functions are more welcoming to overseas candidates than others.

"Large banks are open to bringing in Western talents who can replicate what they have done in their previous product, strategy and middle-office roles. However, the activity we see is largely limited to those areas," says Farida Charania, chief executive officer, banking and financial services, Nastrac.

As a general rule, the more specialised the position, the more likely that a bank will consider an offshore candidate, says Craig Brewer, manager, banking and financial services, Hudson Singapore.

"When a number of banks are looking for the same skill set at the same time in Singapore or Hong Kong, supply and demand issues can arise far quicker than in the US and UK. The London banking market has a scale advantage over Singapore and Hong Kong: more candidates, more options," he adds.

Specialised support functions including product control, credit and market risk, investment banking operations and IT continue to provide opportunities for foreigners because they require the kind of experience that can just as easily be gained in the West as Asia, says Brewer.

Private banking: the door is still open

More regional or local work, requiring client interface still demands domestic talent, but there are exceptions. "Private banking is not averse to non-locals as lot of European clients have a Singapore booking account. So as long as there is experience and an existing book, they can be relocated," says Charania.

Nick Poole, executive director, Tiglon Partners Asia, adds: "In private banking, European-trained relationship managers are still highly thought of. They have a more long-term focus with a perceived degree of sophistication, and are less transactional in nature compared to their peers here."

Not so sought after

If knowledge of Asian markets and regulations is essential, overseas candidates will obviously struggle. "When an Asian-based bank is looking to recruit a head of compliance, for example, it's very unlikely that it will open this opportunity to a candidate who doesn't possess local experience," says Brewer.

In China, corporate finance, fixed income and equities jobs require Mandarin speakers with mainland connections, says Poole.

"There are some Western bankers who speak Mandarin and have done well in China. However, as China grows, internal talent based there has the chance to move simultaneously with the momentum of the country," he adds.

Same company, different country

Many bankers break into Asia via an in-house move. "It helps if you're on the inside, because you're a known quantity to the people around you, with your abilities known," comments Poole.

Brewer advises: "Making your employer aware of your desire to move overseas is important as you will need to find out if an internal move is possible."

Rumours of job cuts in Europe mean that banks which are not normally as pro global mobility will start to offer internal transfers on roles where external relocations could be costly, says Kate Harper, manager, investment banking, operations, risk and finance, Connected Group

"Senior management and internal recruiting teams are certainly being tasked to source internally from the global pool more aggressively than ever," she adds.

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