No pay woes for Asian finance workers

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Finance workers in Asia are still enjoying significant salary premiums when moving jobs but they are increasingly placing more emphasis on issues other than just package, training, career development, brand and work-life balance cited as important attributes in a potential employer.

The region is famed for the high degree of job-hopping - one recruitment consultant, who asked not to be named, said that employees in the financial services sector moved more frequently in Singapore than in any other market he knew of. Shifting jobs every 18 to 24 months was not uncommon.

Historically, recruiters cite that many workers demanded - and got - increases of at least 20% on each move. An employee in financial services who started on SGD$10,000 a month could end up earning nearly SGD$22,000 within seven and a half to 10 years.

And despite a slowdown in the Singapore economy in 2013, and reports of weaker-than-forecast economic data coming out of China, salaries remain quite buoyant.

Anecdotal evidence of frequent job changes is substantiated by statistics from global recruitment agency Randstad. According to its Q2 Workmonitor, 26% of employees across all sectors changed their jobs in the last six months. Strategic account director Gerard Milligan said that this is on par with other countries in the region, with 32% of Hong Kong employees, 29.7% of Chinese employees and 22.8% of Australian employees having changed roles during the same period.

Milligan says that a competitive salary and benefits package remain the top factors for employees to remain or leave a company. "Expanding functions within the banking and financial services, such as in IT security, risk, compliance and legal departments, are in need of talent, and will offer a solid increase to secure the right people. This can be in excess of 20%. In other areas we’re seeing candidates moving for relatively small increments of around 10%.”

In China, finance workers can command even more attractive salary increments to move jobs. Anthony Thompson, regional managing director of Greater China for the PageGroup, said that finance workers on the mainland ‘rarely’ move jobs for anything less than a 25% to 30% salary increase. “If they are outstanding candidates they can command substantially more,” he said. At least 90% of candidates placed by PageGroup on the mainland are Chinese nationals.

Both Thompson and Milligan say there is a growing trend among candidates to seek more than just lucrative compensation packages. “In China, the candidate community is becoming more interested in long-term career development. But the community is still very transient. The sheer shortage of candidates means that the laws of supply and demand come into play, and candidates will move if they are offered the right pay,” Thompson says.

Milligan agrees that non-financial issues are increasingly part of the consideration to move. “Employees are starting to place more importance on work-life balance, training and career development opportunities. If a company builds a strong employer brand and   provides working conditions that align with employees’ needs, they will be able to attract and retain the right talent for their organisation.”