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Singapore recruitment rises by up to 35% as banks replace staff

Banks in Singapore expect double-digit hiring growth this year and aren’t planning any large-scale layoffs, according to 13 senior human resources professionals from international and local banks who attended an eFinancialCareers round table in Singapore yesterday.

New hiring, however, is limited to certain jobs and is driven not by business growth but by filling existing vacancies. The round-table attendees, all based in Singapore, asked not to be named.

The most bullish representative, from a European bank, said his firm had already recruited 35% more job candidates in the first quarter of this year than in the same period in 2012. “But some of that was for pent-up roles that we couldn’t get over the line in December,” he added.

Delegates said most of the recruitment uptick would be in corporate banking, a sector that provides steady revenues as large companies in Asia seek services such as loans and cash management.

As well as needing employees in risk and compliance, corporate banks in Singapore are battling to hire sales staff to win them more clients.

“We all need to boost our local and regional corporate coverage, so salespeople are leaving us for better offers, or commanding good salaries when they join us,” said a delegate from a Singaporean bank.

Other round-table attendees agreed that their hiring is now dominated by the need to replace staff who have left after collecting their bonuses.

Candidates are switching firms more than they did a year ago because they feel “more confident about the job market and their future stability”, said a representative from a US bank in Singapore. But employers are applying “extra layers of scrutiny” before they approve new recruits, added her counterpart from a European firm.

“Cost of hiring is still a big issue in Asia,” he said. “We are especially cautious with non-revenue generating roles – even junior ones must be signed off by more managers than ever before.”

In front-office investment banking, hiring is still slow in Singapore. While investment banks wait for a sustained recovery in global capital markets to justify more hiring, current deal volumes mean they can at least retain their current teams in the city-state.

“We’ve more or less done our big compulsory layoffs,” said a human resources professional from a UK bank in Singapore.

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AUTHORSimon Mortlock Content Manager

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