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Six at-risk roles in banking and how to exit them gracefully

Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia aren't the safe havens for financial careers they once were. Mature markets in Asia Pacific are now suffering the scourge of offshoring as roles increasingly shift to lower-cost locations, particularly India and the Philippines.

Here are six functions in which your job could soon disappear; and here’s how to escape to a more stable career elsewhere.

1) Trade support

The threat: Offshoring and automation are decimating trade-support roles, mainly at associate to AVP levels, said Fiona Taylor, manager of financial services at recruiters Michael Page in Hong Kong. “There is a significant lack of internal and external opportunities at the next level up, and if there is a hiring need, employers are looking at costs and opting for even more junior candidates.“

The escape: If you can’t beat them, join them: trade-support professionals are being hired for project-based roles focused on automating trade support, Taylor said. They are also in demand for middle-office jobs at securities firms and private banks, and for operations jobs within investment management. “Employers look more favourably at candidates who have obtained additional skills, such as product exposure, or who have management experience,” she added.

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2) IT infrastructure

The threat: Infrastructure support roles, including helpdesk, desktop, server and network support, are being outsourced to vendors or offshored, said Peter Noblet, senior regional director of Hays Information Technology.

The escape: “At banks, a number of jobs are being created within the business, not within IT, that are essentially technology roles rebadged – for example, user-acceptance testing,” Noblet said. “Candidates in infrastructure jobs can also go for certification and build their client-facing skills to secure project and change roles, which are more likely to remain onshore.” And if they want to quit banking, the healthcare, pharmaceutical and mobile -development sectors are among their best bets.

3) Operational risk

The threat: A buoyant function for recruitment until recently, many banks now have all the ops-risk talent they need and have started selectively trimming headcounts.

The escape: Operational-risk professionals have been moving into the telecommunications, consumer-goods and infrastructure sectors, typically picking up enterprise risk-management jobs, according to Jacob Smith, director of recruiters JS Careers in Sydney. “Competition for these corporate roles can be tough, but given the tight regulations and highly evolved nature of risk management in financial services, banking backgrounds are regularly considered.”

4) Treasury operations

The threat: Operations teams at large global banks in Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia are among those worst affected by offshoring.

The escape: Ops people with treasury (foreign exchange and money markets) experience are finding work in treasury-operations departments in the corporate sector, said Michael Cunningham, a partner at search firm Anton Murray Consulting in Sydney. “These candidates find the working hours much better and the culture far more relaxed than at the banks. And there’s less fear of redundancy,” he added.

5) Product control

The threat: As we noted last month, the influx of global product-control roles into Singapore, which began about seven years ago, has recently turned into an exodus. The jobs are now in India and the Philippines.

The escape: If you’re a junior- or mid-level product controller, you are advised to seek a general finance role outside of banking. Seniors should try for an internal transfer. “A small proportion of candidates, especially those with an audit background, have successfully moved into compliance jobs, or market- or credit-risk positions at their banks,” said Gary Lai, managing director, Southeast Asia at recruitment firm Charterhouse Partnership.

6) Accountancy at banks

The threat: It’s not just specialist product-control roles being offshored: generalist accounting and finance jobs are at risk, too, as banks look to reduce the cost of their production work.

The escape: “These professionals should look into the buy-side, in areas like asset management, where offshoring is less common,” said Carol Cheung, manager, financial services, at recruiters Robert Walters in Hong Kong. “Candidates can apply their transferable skills there, while industry knowledge is not of the highest importance. It's easier for junior- to mid-level professionals to make this move. Accountants could also try to upskill and learn business-partnering and financial-analysis skills,” she added.

AUTHORSimon Mortlock Content Manager
  • ob
    2 September 2013

    I'm a former product controller, who saw the writing on the wall and went for an MBA to switch into a finance role outside of banking.

    However the feedback from recruiters has generally been that since I don't have budgeting experience, getting a finance role outside of banking is next to impossible. The other impediment is that recruiters also want people that are not changing industries or roles, especially at MBA level positions. It is extremely common to see "5+ years in FP&A + MBA" in finance roles.

    When I try to shoot for more junior roles to get that experience, I am told that I am overqualified. A recruiter from American Express advised me that I should look for junior roles in finance and then work my way up; however I could not do such a thing at American Express. Yes, you read that correctly.

    My future? Probably wiping my behind with my MBA degree, and going into compliance in banking.

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