The supremely sought-after candidates that banks in Singapore are suddenly desperate to hire

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If you’re a Singaporean banker working in London, New York, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Jakarta or another global or regional financial centre, get set for a steady stream of calls this month from headhunters wanting to lure you back home.

For starters, you’ve just received your bonus, so it’s now cheaper for banks in Singapore to poach you. More fundamentally, multi-national banks in the city state are looking to retain their global skills base but reduce their reliance on employing foreign nationals – as a local with international experience you are the perfect solution to their new dilemma.

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In August the Singapore Government is implementing new employment guidelines, the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF), which include a requirement that new vacancies must be advertised only to Singaporeans for an initial two-week period. While the advertising rule may have little impact itself on hiring in the banking sector – firms can still recruit globally after a fortnight and jobs paying more than SG$144k a year are exempt – the spirit of the FCF as a whole is clear: hire more locals.

“With the FCF soon coming into effect, many banks are already being more cautious with hiring foreign talent. But recruiting a local with overseas experience means getting the best of both worlds,” says Matthew Ng, manager of banking and financial services at recruiters Ambition in Singapore.

Banks are stepping up their efforts to recruit both recent "returnees" to Singapore and Singaporeans currently working abroad. “We have a strong commitment to recruiting returnees,” Kris Sasitharan, the APAC regional lead of front-office talent acquisition for Deutsche Bank, told eFinancialCaeers last month. “Philip Lee, our country chief in Singapore, is very involved in this – when he travels, he makes sure to meet fellow Singaporeans working for us overseas.”

Agency recruiters are also closely monitoring the career progress of expat Singaporeans, even junior ones, in case their skills match the requirements of a new local vacancy. They are going the extra mile for a simple reason: the pool of “international Singaporeans” is small, so their rivals are chasing the same talent.

This competition for candidates is helping to drive up salaries. Singaporeans who’ve done a stint overseas receive about 15% more pay than those at the same level who stayed at home, says Ng from Ambition.

Returnees who have international regulatory skills – such as the Dodd-Frank Act, FATCA and Basel III – from working in Western financial centres are particularly sought after. And as banks build their Singapore-based Indonesia and China coverage teams, Singaporean salespeople and relationship managers who’ve worked in those two countries are also in strong demand, says Lee Tze Yong, head of financial services at recruitment firm Charterhouse Partnership in Singapore.

The returnee salary premium isn’t just down to superior technical skills and market knowledge. “Overseas experience is highly regarded at international banks because you need to manage and communicate with people from different cultures,” says Lee. “Singaporeans with overseas experience tend to be more culturally sensitive.”

For many Singaporean bankers aboard, however, money isn’t the main motivation for returning home. “Given the good educational system and infrastructure here, the Singaporeans who’ve been attracted back are mainly those with children,” explains Lee.












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