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Banks Face Fierce Talent Battle from High-Growth Industries

Firms in Singapore’s financial services sector is facing a serious talent threat from other industries as ironclad careers in banking start to lose its appeal.

Despite Singapore’s status as one of the top global financial centres, the banking sector was ranked as the 9th most attractive industry to work in, according to a recent employer brand study by global recruitment agency Randstad.

Lim Chai Leng, Director, Banking and Financial Services at Randstad Singapore, thinks the trend is being driven by a blend of factors, such as less generous remuneration packages, complex career paths and rising competition from other sectors.

She points out that since the global financial crisis that took place in 2007, banks have placed a greater emphasis on cost management. Thus making them more conservative paymasters.

In an effort to stay resilient to the changing marketplace, banks are investing in digitalisation to collect large volumes of data to predict trends and plan a course of action.

“The employee’s career path is no longer as straightforward as it used to be. To remain competitive and desirable to companies, workers are asking for better training and wider job exposure,” she adds.

Intense competition for financial professionals from new and innovative industries

Banks are also facing considerable competition for talent from other sectors, most directly from technology firms. The Randstad study pointed out that professionals in Singapore ranked the Information Technology sector ranked as the second most attractive sector to work in.

The results do not surprise Lim, who said that some of the world’s most prolific technology companies have called Singapore home to their Asia Pacific headquarters, creating new and exciting jobs for the workforce.

Furthermore, the innovative ecosystem in Singapore powered by a sound and supportive political structure and global VC funding has paved the way for brand new industrial categories as a result of the convergence between financial services and technology - FinTech, TechFin and InsurTech.

These new firms create new careers for ambitious professionals who are motivated by jobs that are exciting and challenging. Furthermore, the organisational structure in these new firms is often linear and career growth can take place quickly for great performers.

The increasing number of companies offers more options to finance employees, creating more competition for good talent. As a result, traditional banks will find it more challenging to attract and secure good financial talent in the new business environment.

Lim points out, “These new companies tend to have fewer than 50 employees, so it’s not uncommon for them to have an agile and flat organisation structure. Furthermore, these companies offer highly competitive remuneration packages and an exciting career development path to attract talent from traditional banking.”

Randstad’s employer brand research, which studies the brand value and perception of Singapore’s largest commercial companies by workforce size, found that while awareness of the sector was high at 70%, it only scored 43% in terms of attractiveness.

But regional and local banks are climbing the ranks in terms of both awareness and attractiveness. Lim attributes this to the fact that many of these banks have set up their international or Asia Pacific headquarters in Singapore, demonstrating their commitment to the country.

A number of them have also reported strong earnings in 2018, which have further improved the attractiveness of the employer brand as they are seen to be better paymasters as compared to their peers.

In response to the increasing competition within the financial world, traditional banks are innovating their solutions to meet customers’ expectations for more convenient and personalised services. This will create opportunities for their existing workforce to augment their skills and new roles for finance professionals to explore.

“The financial health of a company speaks a lot to its ability to invest in their employees, such as higher performance bonuses or a more progressive learning and development programme that will prepare the employees for the future of work,” she says.

training programmes can help improve workforce sustainability

Lim suggests that in order to improve employee retention and recruitment, banks should focus on the true value that their brand can deliver to people.

“This means giving people access to resources and opportunities that are meaningful to them and can help them achieve their career aspirations,” she says.

The employer brand research found that finance employees are engaged with the companies they work with if they continue to receive an attractive remuneration, is able to support a healthy work-life balance and can assure job security. Those who choose to leave tend to do so because of poor work-life balance, limited career growth and lack of recognition for their contributions.

Lim explains that employers that want to win at attracting and retaining the best talent should take note of what finance professionals are looking for. She adds that companies that ranked highly in awareness and attractiveness also tended to be those that regularly engage with their audience.

Effectively communicate the employer brand through multiple touchpoints

“A healthy, happy and productive workforce can deliver a more positive customer experience and bring in higher revenue. Therefore, it is important to get the right employee-fit from the beginning,”  To strengthen the workplace culture, banks are getting their employees to speak out about their own experiences.

“Not only do these anecdotes help to create and attract a larger talent pool, they also share details on what candidates can expect if they join the company to minimise any risks of culture-shock,” she says.

Working with a professional recruitment agency, such as Randstad, can also ensure that the employer brand is being consistently communicated to prospective candidates.

Lim says, “Each of our recruitment consultants is specialised in an area within the structure of the financial services, such as front office, compliance and risk management, and operations. As an expert in their own field, they would have an extensive network of finance professionals to tap into as well as a thorough understanding of our clients’ talent needs to engage with potential job seekers.”

“We communicate and promote your employer brand in a consistent manner to all potential applicants, reducing any risks of dropouts during the recruitment process while improving the perception and value of the employer brand at the same time.” Lim adds.

keep retention rate low through a positive employee experience

As well as communicating their employer brand to potential talent, Lim suggests banks should invest in creating a positive employee experience to retain staff. Studies have consistently shown that a positive employee experience translates into improved customer experience, a healthier workforce and sustainable profitability.

“Employee engagement is not as impactful or sustainable as positive employee experience. Most of the time employees forget about the engagement activities, but if you take care of the employee’s wellbeing and productivity level by making it easier for them to work with you, they will have a more positive experience,” she says.

When it came to looking for new positions, the study found that 74 per cent of financial talents engaged recruiters to help them in their job search and 46 per cent successfully found new career opportunities because of the help from recruiters.

Lim explains that leading companies and finance talent would still rather work with recruiters as they will gain a competitive edge from the independent market intelligence shared with them.

She says, “Based on the HR and market trends, we’ll be able to identify what are the in-demand skills that companies will soon be looking for, what type of new roles will arise in the near future and what roles will be transitioned out. We share our insights with clients and candidates through our interactions with them.”

Learn more in Randstad’s latest White Paper - Employee Experience - the first step in the customer journey.


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