New Asian “powerhouse” bank tipped to hire in Singapore – but would you want to work there?

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Three Malaysian banks – RHB Capital, CIMB Group and a smaller firm, MBSB – are tying the knot and the merged organisation is expected to want to add to its Singapore-based headcount.

The companies last week agreed on a US$22.3bn merger to form Malaysia's largest bank by assets – the deal is expected to be completed by mid-2015, provided it is approved by Malaysia's central bank. The combined entity would create a self-described regional financial “powerhouse”, better able to compete with the Western and Singaporean banks that are also expanding in Southeast Asian markets.

In Singapore itself, recruiters tip the enlarged Malaysian firm to bolster its client-facing headcount next year.

“The deal will probably have a positive impact on the Singapore recruitment market. Both CIMB and RHB already have operations here, while the merged bank, with more significant resources, will try to add more front-office staff here, using Singapore as a base as they push for regional growth,” says Han Lee, director of search firm Lico Resources in Singapore.

But will the CIMB RHB merger prove sufficiently enticing to corporate-banking candidates in Singapore, who already enjoy a tight labour market? The firm would, after all, still be smaller than Singapore’s DBS, OCBC and UOB, which would remain the top-three banks in Southeast Asia by assets. “I think the merger will definitely boost confidence among candidates, who will see it as a serious regional player with potential,” says Lee.

Another recruiter, who asked not to be named because of client confidentiality, adds that most candidates will want to join CIMB-led teams. “CIMB is more international, with high expectations on staff, a fast-paced workplace and a strong performance-based bonus system. RHB is less ambitious and to date you don't see many people move from RHB to CIMB with any success,” he says.

The recruiter adds: “If I was looking at joining the organisation post-merger I might have some concerns about working for an ex-RHB or MBSB manager and would want to join a CIMB-trained team. CIMB and RHB are at the opposite ends of the scale in terms of culture and approach.”

The Islamic banking subsidiary due to be created by the merger will be among the firm's largest departments and should have few problems attracting talent. “With its emphasis on Islamic banking, coupled with RHB’s retail presence in Singapore, I think this new bank will be a strong player serving Islamic high-net-worth people in Singapore and around the region,” says Sharon Chow, a senior recruitment consultant at Charterhouse Partnership in Singapore.

Few, if any, redundancies are expected in Singapore as a result of the merger. The back and middle-office jobs most likely to be duplicated between the banks are mainly based in Malaysia.

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