Singapore’s latest efforts to win a bigger share of the global foreign exchange market is fuelling recruitment at banks like Citi and UBS. But the new jobs aren’t for traders; they’re for Java developers.
The Monetary Authority of Singapore is trying to encourage (partly via grants and tax incentives) more big players in the FX sector to build trading systems and data centres in the Republic. UBS and Citi are already setting up new pricing engines, and MAS expects six to eight more firms, including non-banks and multi-dealer platforms, to follow suit, Bloomberg reports.
Building these costly and complicated new platforms, which are designed to reduce the millisecond delays currently caused by routing trades via Tokyo or London, is forcing banks to hire more developers. This isn’t always straightforward.
“FX trading and pricing engines are typically built in Java, but there’s already a relatively small talent pool in Singapore for Java developers with FX e-trading systems experience,” Adam Davies, lead IT recruiter at iKas International, tells us. “There will now be a further shortage of quality developers as these new engines are set up by various banks and fintechs,” he adds.
Job hopping is becoming more common in the FX technology sector because Java developers now have more opportunities and are being “tempted to move with very attractive salary increases”, says Davies. Pay rises of about 20% are common, say recruiters. A VP-level Java developer currently earning S$153k could land a salary of about S$184k (US$130k) if they move, according to our technology salary table, which was compiled from recruiter surveys.
Banks are starting to hire Java developers without FX experience in order to tackle the growing talent shortage, says Ashwin Dinesh, senior manager of financial services technology at recruiters Randstad in Singapore. “They can then train them in the business and function needs after onboarding,” he adds.
If you have cash equities experience, for example, you might want to apply for a job on one of the new FX platforms. “What’s required for FX is pretty similar to what’s required in cash equities,” says Vince Natteri, a former programmer who’s now managing director of IT search firm Pinpoint Asia. “A low-latency cash equities developer could do just as well building FX trading platforms. And the domain knowledge in FX can be learnt quite easily for someone who’s worked in equities,” he adds.
It’s a “big plus” if you know Java and are equally competent in C++, says April Jimenez, a senior consultant at recruiters Huxley in Singapore. “You also need to know Spring and Spring Boot. FX candidates must be fully competent or hands-on in programming real-time, multi-threaded, and highly available systems,” she adds.
Citi announced in March that it plans to launch its Singapore FX trading engine – modelled on the firm’s existing systems in Tokyo, New York and London – in the fourth quarter. The bank now needs additional technologists to “build out the new platform, related connectivity and ongoing support functions”, Mark Meredith, global head of electronic trading for FX and local markets, told us at the time. Much of the project is focused on the deployment of new hardware infrastructure in a Singapore data centre.
UBS started its electronic pricing and trading engine in Singapore in April. “Singapore has a favorable geographic location with low round-trip times to many regional and global financial centers,” Eric Li, head of emerging market macro trading at UBS Asia Pacific, told Bloomberg. “The new eFX engine allows UBS to provide our clients with greater liquidity, lower latencies and increased efficiency in the foreign exchange markets.”
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