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A brilliant banking career emerges in Singapore (but only if you're senior enough)

Senior debt capital markets (DCM) professionals in Singapore are officially hot stuff. Banks there are looking to both hire new DCM staff and retain their key deal-makers as the city state’s debt market gains momentum.

Singapore's bond market was the fastest-growing in “emerging east Asia” – a region covering 10 markets, including China and Hong Kong – in the third quarter, according to the Asian Development Bank. “The job market in DCM has also been strong, even more so than last year,” says Han Lee, director of search firm Lico Resources in Singapore.

[efc_twitter text="Banks’ headcount plans in DCM aren’t focused on execution foot soldiers"] – they are hiring and promoting mainly at the mid to senior level. “They want to recruit and retain VPs and directors – proven specialists who know the macroeconomics and can also address clients’ day-to-day funding situations,” says Lee.

“We see more demand for originators who have established strong relationships within a specific region and are able to bring in the deals,” adds Sharon Chow, vice president, banking and financial services, at recruiters Charterhouse Partnership in Singapore.

Singapore has witnessed of flurry of DCM musical chairs during the second half of this year. May Chan joined Deutsche Bank in September as head of fixed-income capital markets Southeast Asia after more than 10 years at Barclays, where she ran Southeast Asia DCM, for example. In the same month, Societe Generale poached Raj Malhotra, Nomura’s head of Southeast Asia DCM, to lead its DCM business for Southeast Asia and India.

“HSBC, RBS, OCBC, Standard Chartered and Natixis have also beefed up their DCM teams in Singapore recently – typically VPs and senior VPs,” says a Singapore-based recruiter who asked not to be named.

Recruitment is steady rather than gung-ho, however – [efc_twitter text="DCM teams in Singapore are under pressure to increase workloads and promote internally"] before they create new vacancies. “There’s a talent shortage of VPs and directors in DCM and given costs sensitivity these days, internal transfers with translatable skill-sets will sometimes be prioritised over external hiring,” says Chow from Charterhouse.

Those with a strong “credit analysis background” may be considered for transfers, says Ignatius Goh, a financial services consultant at recruitment firm Robert Walters in Singapore.

Moving from an ECM or M&A role can be problematic, however, says Lee from Lico. “Debt investors are often more concerned with stable cash flows whereas ECM or IBD are more about growth – transferring isn’t as straight forward as it may seem.”

Lee adds: “With DCM traditionally being higher-volume but lower-margin than ECM, often the current DCM staff are just taking on more work. Having said that, when an experienced DCM professional does move from one bank to another, the pay rise is in the healthy 20% range.”

And what’s the hiring outlook like for next year? “I’m cautious,” says Goh. “Even though 2014 has been a great year for DCM, 2015 may be a different story depending on the global economy and the potential rise in interest rates.”

“With equity markets in Asia looking sluggish, I think DCM’s current hot run may just continue for a little longer,” adds Chow. “Deal makers will be hotly in demand, but apart from that banks will continue to exercise caution and hirings will be intermittent rather than massive.”

AUTHORSimon Mortlock Content Manager

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