Financial institutions in Singapore and Hong Kong are expected to ramp up recruitment for crypto currency and blockchain-related hires this year, adding fuel to what’s already been a buoyant period for the emerging sector.
The growth is driven by local banks, startups as well as digital payment companies from the US, Europe and UK opening offices in the region for the first time, according to Esther Khor, partner and co-founder of Singapore recruitment firm TENTEN Partners. Among local banks, DBS leads the way with its DBS Digital Exchange (DDEx).
“We are very busy at the moment,” says Khor, adding that Singapore is abuzz with activity thanks to a light regulatory footprint that has helped the city state emerge as a beacon for blockchain companies seeking access to Southeast Asia and mainland China.
Khor says the uptick in hiring includes entry-level positions as well as candidates with mid-to-senior-level experience.
Companies are looking to fill jobs that require technical skills, such as chief technology officers, chief product officers, engineers, and other roles related to blockchain development. However, the recruitment boom also includes the non-technical side of the crypto ecosystem – roles such as public relations, product development and regulatory compliance.
“The non-tech positions are seeking more relevant experience,” says Khor, adding that most companies do not require formal education in blockchain as long as candidates have prior work experience in a related industry.
Khor, who typically oversees 15 to 20 active recruitment leads at any one time, says as a general rule, companies tend to prefer candidates with one to three years of experience rather than fresh graduates.
Positions in Hong Kong or Singapore typically require candidates to be fluent in English, while some technical roles may require the ability to speak Mandarin, especially if the role involves working with engineers based in China.
Toya Zhang, the Hong Kong-based deputy chief operating officer at crypto exchange AAX, says her company does not have any plans to add to its local headcount in the coming year. Instead, AAX will add staff at its Singapore office in the expectation that it will soon receive a regulatory green light from the Monetary Authority of Singapore. Zhang says her company also has a license application submitted to regulators in Hong Kong, but it’s not clear when approval will be forthcoming.
Among non-technical roles, AAX expects about 25% of new hires in the coming year will be related to compliance, while marketing and other positions needed to foster company growth will also be on the hiring list.
That aside, she sees growing opportunity across the board as the crypto industry gravitates towards the mainstream. “There is huge space for everyone,” says Zhang, adding that the industry holds out opportunity for those with work experience in areas such as legal or accounting, as well as those with the creative mindset that can add spark to brainstorming sessions.
“We are more inclined towards people who show interest and want to develop their careers in this space,” says Zhang. Candidates with prior experience trading crypto currencies would be viewed more favourably by her company because “they understand the whole process themselves from the beginning”.
Still, not all recent hires require prior experience with bid and offer prices. For example, Zhang says her company looked favourably upon one candidate for a designer role who showed a knack for social media.
“She demonstrated the passion and interest about crypto. Also, she showed us her work and the little memes that she did which were very creative and very much like crypto culture, so we hired her immediately because this person can think independently and bring vast value to our team,” says Zhang.
Zhang expects the industry will see another year of rapid growth in 2022, propelled by a wave of new money. She says to watch for a surge of activity in mergers and acquisitions among companies in decentralised finance, while digital assets and tokenisation will continue to make big headlines in the business press.
Industries that have yet to explore the benefits of blockchain could also be in focus at they move to adopt the technology, says Zhang, adding that agriculture and fashion were two areas to watch. “People have already reached the consensus that crypto is here to stay and is only going to expand,” she says.
Khor of TENTEN Partners suggests individuals seeking to enter the crypto industry at an early stage of their career often approach companies directly. “It’s okay for candidates to apply directly,” she says. “Companies mostly tend to hire junior level candidates by themselves.”
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