The real reasons why finance professionals in Asia are changing jobs right now
Finance professionals in Singapore and Hong Kong are predominately seeking long-term career progression when they change companies, belying their reputation for frequent, opportunistic job-hopping, according to the eFinancialCareers Career Satisfaction & Retention Survey.
Cited by 34% of survey respondents in both Singapore and Hong Kong, career progression was their most popular motivation for joining their current firm.
“Promotions, especially at a senior level, have been hard to come by due to intermittent headcount freezes. These candidates are looking for a fresh stab at moving up the career ladder by changing banks,” says Jay Abeyasinghe, manager of banking and financial services at recruiters Morgan McKinley in Singapore.
Recent rounds of front-office redundancies and back-office offshoring have made finance professionals in Singapore and Hong Kong increasingly take a longer-term view of career progression. They are targeting “stable” banks where they can advance themselves with less fear of losing their jobs, say recruiters in Asia.
“With all the turbulence in the market, most people here are now more concerned about long-term progression and stability in the role. Nobody wants to interview with a bank that is offshoring,” says Kyle Blockley, managing partner at recruiters KS Consulting in Singapore. “Candidates continue to favour regional banks over some of the global names, also in the name of stability and commitment to the region,” adds Abeyasinghe.
Money still matters to some, however. Respondents to the eFinancialCareers survey in Singapore and Hong Kong were slightly more likely that their counterparts in the US, UK and Australia to cite compensation as their main motivation for accepting their current job.
Pay is a motivating factor particular for those whose salaries have been frozen in recent years. “Some candidates in Asia have not even seen nominal annual pay rises, so they are trying to bring their comp more in line with market by making a lateral move involving a significant rise,” says Abeyasinghe.
But with the exception of talent-short sectors like compliance, where pay rises for changing companies regularly top 20%, those motivated by money aren’t necessarily clinching big pay rises.
“Banks have tight budgets in Asia and it’s hard to bridge the gap between what the candidate asks for and what the bank will pay,” says Moncef Heddad, CEO of MH Search and Advisory in Hong Kong. “VPs and directors are the hardest to convince. If they’ve survived recent job cuts, they don’t see the point in moving unless there’s a significant salary uplift.”
Still, our research suggests that Asian finance professionals have slightly itchier feet that their Western counterparts. Compared with the US, UK and Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong had the highest percentages (38% and 44% respectively) of respondents saying they changed jobs every two to three years.
But while employment tenures may be shorter in Asia than in the US and UK, they are starting to creep up, say recruiters.
“Candidates in Asia may have been more prone to job hopping in the past, but most now recognise that a move for a small pay hike may not compensate for the risk of being last in, first out,” says Abeyasinghe from Morgan McKinley. “I’m having more conversations with candidates this year about the risks of moving too often,” adds Rafael Brana, a consultant at search firm Bo Le Associates in Hong Kong.
Click on the thumbnails below to view our survey infographics for Hong Kong and Singapore.