The new place to find cutting-edge, in-demand careers in Asian banking

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The consumer divisions of banks in Asia are not renowned for their ability to attract elite candidates from other departments, industries and countries into cutting-edge, well-paid jobs. But this is exactly what is suddenly happening in consumer digital banking.

The likes of [efc_twitter text="Citi, HSBC and Standard Chartered are belatedly beefing up their digital banking teams in Singapore and Hong Kong"]. Regional firms Dah Sing Bank, DBS and Bank of East Asia are also hiring, says a recruiter in Hong Kong who asked not be named because of client confidentiality. Recruitment rates, which only shot up in the second half of last year, now look set to stay strong in 2015.

“Basically all consumer banks are now hiring aggressively – [efc_twitter text="Asia has fallen behind the West in digital banking and needs to catch up fast"],” says Nicholas Evans, a partner at search firm CTPartners in Singapore. “Digital banking has gone past simple e-commerce – everyone accesses their accounts online these days – it’s now about creating new digital customer interactions and products that drive out analogue processes, reduce back-office costs and let banks expand into new Asian markets without huge branch networks.”

Evans says hiring demand for chief digital officers at banks in Asia doubled in 2014 compared with the previous year. “And if you’ve worked a senior digital-banking role before, you will command a high pay premium.”

Headcounts are also expanding at a rank-and-file level. Most digital-banking teams use “agile” processes to develop new products, which means they have hiring needs across a variety of functions – including technology, risk, compliance, marketing and operations, says Evans. “They want people who like working in integrated, not siloed, teams.”

Their technology-focused employees typically include project managers, system analysts and analyst programmers, says Vince Natteri, director of recruitment at search firm Pinpoint Asia in Hong Kong. “And I’m seeing a lot of openings for UX and UI developers and mobile developers,” he adds. “Techies with specific skills in design and development in J2EE and COBOL are also in demand in digital banking.”

With such a variety of skills to source, banks in Singapore and Hong Kong are casting a wide net. Internal transferees are their first point of call – developers or risk managers could be brought in from their respective departments, for example.

Banks are also looking to poach people working in cutting-edge digital jobs at online giants like Amazon, Google and Facebook, says Evans. “The banks we work with are now becoming more keen on hiring candidates from outside banking,” adds Natteri.

Hiring internationally is also a viable option because the digital-banking function is more developed in the US and Europe than it is in Asia, says Evans from CTPartners. “The Australian consumer banking market is also very competitive – banks like CBA are major digital-banking innovators – so firms in Singapore and Hong Kong are bringing in people from Australia as well.”

Banks in Asia shouldn’t expect their new digital-banking recruits to stick around for too long, however. “Digital banking typically has a fast turnover and most people don’t stay past two or three years. They have a project mindset – they want to come in to build something new and exciting, and they find business-as-usual work a bit boring,” explains Evans.

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