If you want a job in transaction banking in Singapore, the good news is that hiring is slowly recovering this year. But the skills needed to succeed in the sector are changing – securing a new role will likely require having more digital expertise under your belt.
OCBC announced this week that it plans to add another 50 people to its transaction banking division by the end of next year. Goldman Sachs is building a new engineering team in Singapore to work on its TxB platform for transaction banking clients. Standard Chartered is understood to be hiring, following the appointment last November of Singapore-based Michael Spiegel as global head of transaction banking. HSBC, Citi and DBS – which are among the market leaders in Asian transaction banking – are also selectively recruiting in the Republic.
This will come as a relief to professionals in the sector and points to a wider recovery in Asian economies. Asian transaction banking revenues declined across the market in 2020, according to data provider Coalition. Cash management teams struggled in a low interest rate environment.
Transaction banking increasingly demands a combination of tech and business skills. “I need a very deep appreciation of new technologies like APIs, blockchain, and for data,” Melvyn Low, OCBC’s head of global transaction banking, told the Straits Times. “It's not just about knowing how to look at and consume data, but how to use it to target clients, identify their flows, and capture them with solutions using new technologies,” he said.
OCBC isn’t the only firm looking for these skills in Singapore. “With digitalisation happening across transaction banking, banks want people with an appreciation of technology. Banks’ competitors are now the fintech and platform businesses, in cash management and trade finance, respectively. These companies have already taken market share and have the advantage of fast decision making without bureaucracy,” says Anamika Singh, a deputy director at LMA Recruitment. “The ideal candidate should come from a technology background and have functional expertise of transaction banking products, or be a banker who’s previously worked at a tech company and has an appreciation of technology,” she adds.
Knowledge of application programming interfaces (APIs) is becoming critical within transaction banking, says Ivan Tang, a former Stan Chart transaction banker who is now CEO of Tangspac Consulting. “Amid rising competition from digital banks and fintechs, many incumbent banks are using APIs to offer clients easier access to the bank’s cash management services, while enabling clients to make more real-time and complex decisions in relation to payments, transfers, and cash pooling,” he adds.
Blockchain and distributed ledger technologies are supporting the digitalisation of supply-chain finance to reduce processing times, eliminate the use of paper, and ensure transparency and trust, says Tang. “There have been collaborations between banks and regulators to establish trade finance platforms that build on blockchain infrastructure, so banks are hiring talent in this space,” he adds.
Data skills are also in high demand. “Apart from leveraging data to target customers more efficiently and obtain higher ROI from the bank’s marketing campaigns, advanced data analytics is also being used to improve the liquidity product offering of transaction banks. Transaction banks need to help customers manage diverse pools of liquidity across the region, and optimise working capital while keeping a close eye on risk. With predictive data analytics, banks can help customers improve liquidity forecasting and make more informed decisions,” he adds.
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