The hot banking sector set to generate jobs next year

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If you’re looking for a job in banking where you’re unlikely to be laid off and may even enjoy a long and prosperous career, look no further than FX in Singapore.

The sector received a major boost earlier this week when Singapore signed an agreement with China that paves the way for direct trading between the two nations’ currencies, meaning that Singapore will join Hong Kong and London as an offshore trading hub for the yuan (or renminbi, RMB).

Recruiters in the Asian city state say the currency deal, more details of which will be announced at a later date, will further boost an already buoyant job market in FX. While most banks will initially try to cover an increase in yuan-related trading using their current FX staff, new jobs are expected to open up early next year after hiring budgets are finalised.

“The deal has fully cemented Singapore as the Southeast Asia hub for FX,” said Sarah Harte-Spencer, director, global markets, at search firm Sheffield Haworth. “I expect there will be hiring across FX in 2014; and not just on the trading desks – over time banks could add to sales and structuring positions to ensure that revenues are maximised.”

FX professionals in Singapore are already leading charmed lives, with steady hiring and comparatively few layoffs in their sector this year. In September, Singapore overtook Japan as Asia’s biggest foreign exchange centre for the first time.

“FX has been a steady hiring area for the past two years, mostly supported by private banking,” said Han Lee, a recruitment consultant at search firm Kerry Consulting in Singapore. “But now, while private banking will continue to be strong, we are also seeing more hiring for FX specialists in the corporate and retail segments.”

Among global banks in Singapore, HSBC, Citi and Standard Chartered have the largest hiring needs in FX because of the “sheer size of their deal flow in Asia", according to a headhunter who asked not to be named. All three Singaporean banks – DBS, OCBC and UOB – are also expected to boost their FX ranks next year, he said. "Corporate banks who have Chinese corporate clients or do Chinese deals will be looking to hire," added Anita Gerry Sim, practice leader, financial services, at recruiters AYP Asia Group in Singapore.

Candidates with experience in the Chinese currency will be high on these banks’ wish lists. “On the back of Singapore becoming an offshore RMB hub, and thus an increase in RMB-related business, the demand for RMB product specialist will potentially become higher too,” Lee said. “You will probably see more banks participating in RMB activities; they don’t want to lose out to competitors.”

Mandarin language skills will become more sought after in FX in Singapore, making it more difficult for Western-based candidates to clinch jobs there. “In the last couple of years, traders trading in emerging markets at top-caliber banks in London or New York have been considered, but I don’t now anticipate a heavy new influx; banks will choose to exhaust the local job market first,” said Harte-Spencer from Sheffield Haworth.

For those supporting FX transactions in the back-office, the Sino-Singapore currency-trading agreement is only likely to generate a small increase in settlement, clearing and related roles, said Gerard Milligan, strategic account director at recruitment firm Randstad in Singapore. "Banks will largely absorb this into their current operations teams," added Christina Ng, associate director, Robert Walters Singapore. "And we have seen offshoring to lower-cost locations affecting operations jobs in Singapore, including FX."

Away from FX, the currency deal could rev up recruitment in trade finance, according to Sam Belcher, managing director of recruiters The Edge Partnership in Singapore.