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Bankers push for more pay as rents rise in Singapore

As the Russia-Ukraine war continues, shipping delays drag, the crypto winter rages, and inflation soars, finance professionals in Singapore are starting to job hop to mitigate the pinch of rising costs, say recruiters.

With rents going up 20-40% recently, we are seeing that candidates are looking to move jobs within Singapore – and also in some cases to the US, UK or other countries where there could be a perceived increase in salary and income,” says Adam Davies, Singapore country director at Sanderson-iKas. “This trend will continue throughout the year until things stabilise.”

Davies is referring to unprecedented rises in rental rates of private properties thanks to a strong inflow of expat talent from cities like Hong Kong, paired with a highly limited supply of private housing. Singapore continues to be regarded as a safe haven amid the pandemic, and large firms are proceeding with expansion plans here even as the economy slows.

Vikas Srivastava, country manager at Quess Singapore, adds that changing pay increment expectations amid a recently red-hot hiring market could also be a factor. “The definition of a satisfactory pay increment has changed: a 3-5% rise, which used to be quite acceptable, is no longer tenable. Expectations are now for double digit figures like 12-15%,” he says, referring to pay rises within a current employer.

Of course, most finance professionals would prefer for their employers to meet their increment expectations, so they can stay on. But should this fall flat, they will most certainly look elsewhere as price pressures mount in the form of more expensive groceries, electricity, transport and (for expats) international school fees, says Srivastava.

“Headline inflation may be 5%, but in reality the impact seen is more like 10%,” says Srivastava. “What is further aggravating the situation is that there does not seem to be any end to the crisis and supply chain shock in the near future.”

Sachet Sethi, tech and transformation manager at Robert Walters Singapore, thinks it all “boils down to sustainability”. “The increasing cost of goods around the world has impacted a range of expenses, from daily needs to general affordability. In order to mitigate concerns over the cost of living, candidates are actively looking around,” he adds. “There is no dearth of jobs in the market.”

Given the difference in pay packages, it might seem as if staff in junior roles are the ones most likely to bounce around – but even people at the mid to senior level are starting to move, according to recruiters.

All three say inflation hurts even senior leaders with relatively fat pay cheques, as these individuals may have more dependents, or gotten used to a particular standard of living. Low investment portfolio returns could be another factor contributing to concerns about shrinking earnings.

“Since 20-25% salary increases are common in the current job market for finance roles – especially in tech – moving jobs and getting that raise is the obvious thing to do for many,” adds Davies.

Or maybe staff might stay? Davies predicts counter-offers will become “even more common than they already are” as employers double down on retaining key performers, concerned that hiring a replacement could be less efficient and more expensive.

As a means of retaining existing talent, some firms are conducting regular salary adjustments outside of the annual cycle to account for skills demand and inflation, Sethi previously said

But not every job hopper is out to beat rising costs. Liu San Li, a former private banker and investment advisor-turned recruiter, said key reasons for changing jobs he’s heard still tend to be “platform-centric, related to products and solutions, or the quality of employee support”.

Photo by Alexa Soh on Unsplash

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AUTHORRachel Chia Insider Comment

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