Want to move to Asia? Be prepared to pay your way, especially if you’re junior

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If you are thinking of moving to Asia, get ready to fund some or all of the costs – these days a comprehensive relocation package may not be on offer.

Long-term expat deals – covering housing, school fees and cars – have been virtually wiped out already. Cost-conscious banks are now turning their attention to reducing one-off relocation expenses – such as plane tickets, shipping of belongings and the once-ubiquitous month in a serviced apartment.

At most firms, relocation deals are no longer given as standard; they are assessed case by case, depending on factors like seniority, urgency and how difficult the individual was to source, according to the 14 financial-service HR professionals at this week’s eFinancialCareers roundtable in Singapore, all of whom asked not to be named in this report.

Young candidates, those least likely to afford self-financing their move, are most prone to be caught in the crackdown. One European bank doesn’t offer any help for junior roles, although it still does higher up the ranks, its delegate told the roundtable. Her counterpart at a US investment bank added: “Officially, we have two relocation packages: standard and moderated. But in reality, moderated has become the new standard.”

Another attendee said her firm decided earlier this year to give juniors a lump sum rather than paying for individual expenses – this is almost always cheaper and the cost is fixed. “People want to move here anyway, so we’re looking at how we can make it more economical for us. Candidates’ main concern is having a decent job.”

Employers are typically more generous to current staff who are moving internally than they are to external hires, leaving new analysts and associates with little power to request a relocation package.

Relocation may be the least of their problems, however. “Frankly, I would discourage them to come in the first place when you consider the cost of living in Singapore,” said a delegate from a US bank. "It's often not viable on a junior salary, even with the low tax here."

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