Two disturbing trends are emerging in the banking job market in Asia: many employees are becoming fearful of moving internally, while quitting banking altogether is an increasingly popular option for those who want a new job.
As we have been telling you throughout the year, banks are tapping their in-house talent to fill vacancies – a tactic often used to retain staff who would otherwise be made redundant.
But sourcing internal candidates whose existing roles aren’t being immediately retrenched is now proving difficult thanks to fears about future downsizing, according to the 14 HR professionals from international financial-service firms who attended the recent eFinancialCareers roundtable in Singapore.
“Internal candidates are now as cautious as external ones. People don’t always put their hands up for moving,” said one of the roundtable delegates, all of whom asked not to be named in this report.
A representative from a US bank added: “If the internal transfer doesn’t work out, they will then be an obvious target for redundancy in their current team because their manager might think that they want out. So they are prioritising their own job security and not volunteering – it’s a conundrum for us.”
That’s it, I quit
And it’s not exactly easy to promote internal opportunities to the growing group of professionals who want to call time on their banking careers after their bonuses are paid in Q1. “Most of those who move will be leaving the sector altogether, not going to our competitors. A lot of people are frustrated and simply tired of the industry,” bemoaned a roundtable delegate.
Another attended added: “I agree that a lot of them will go to roles outside banking, especially in Singapore where there is a good mix of industries in which their skills and experience are transferable.”
People who have been laid off are also open to switching sectors. A representative from a US bank reckoned half of the retrenched staff she spoke with earlier this year didn't even bother to search for a new banking role. They didn’t think the opportunities would be good enough. “I followed up a few months later. Some had already gone into oil and gas; some into the Big Four accounting firms.”
A perception that opportunities are scant and bonuses aren’t what they used to be also affects graduate recruitment, the roundtable agreed. Representatives from a US and European firm said their global graduate applications were down 40 and 30 per cent respectively this year. Others have noticed smaller falls in Singapore.
In a survey by a European bank, many graduates said they no longer considered banking financially rewarding enough. “The fallout is even worse than when the GFC hit in 2008. Back then, people thought the recovery would be a lot quicker. The recent banking scandals haven’t helped how grads view the industry either,” said an attendee from a UK bank.
For those who do secure graduate traineeships, the pressure is mounting. “In the past they had two years to prove their performance; now they have nine months, or it’s time to go,” explained a roundtable delegate. “It’s a shame: sometimes you need a few years before you become a superstar. But it’s the market – you can’t be a traveller for long in an expensive industry like this.”