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Singapore buy-side hiring booms, but slowdown on horizon

There’s no summertime slowdown in the arms race to fill vacancies related to the buy-side of Singapore’s financial industry.

The push remains in force as asset management firms and hedge funds such as BlackRock, Pimco, Wellington Management Singapore, and Hudson River Trading, among others, ramp up operations in the city state, according to recruiters.

“We are seeing healthy hiring activity largely because the Singapore market continues to grow,” says Will Tan, managing director at Principle Partners in Singapore, adding that a major driver continues to be the trend of firms downsizing in Hong Kong in favour of the rival southern financial hub. “There is a shortage of talent in finance for sure, across all levels.”

The boom encompasses hedge funds, high-frequency trading firms, private equity, family offices and global asset managers. Larger asset management firms typically have dozens of positions in active recruitment, while smaller firms may only be expanding their headcounts by single digits owing to a relatively flat organisation structure.

Tan says clients are looking to hire for buy-side roles ranging from the junior to mid-level, whereas senior-level roles tend to be filled by internal transfers from outside the region. “When you move senior people from Hong Kong to Singapore what happens is that you have to hire people around them,” says Tan. “It’s going to be a combination of investment professionals and middle and back-office functions.”

So far, Tan says his efforts to find qualified investment professionals have been focused within Singapore, as well as towards Singaporean residents working overseas who may consider the current boom as an ideal time to return home.

Among other buy-side roles, Tan says clients are seeking skilled investment professionals with the language skills and cultural backgrounds to fulfil investment mandates related to Southeast Asia. In some instances this means candidates that were born in countries such as Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam. “For certain investment roles you need local knowledge; you need certain languages to operate more efficiently,” says Tan.

Tan cautions that the asset management industry is bracing for a slowdown that may arrive in the coming quarters or early next year. Concerns over the outlook for global asset prices follow a sharp sell-off in equity and bond markets during the first half.

“It has been a bit of challenge for asset managers to hang onto their AUM [assets under management], so in turn that’s going to have a follow-on effect of people then starting to worry about costs and being able to hire at the same velocity as they have in the past one to two years,” says Tan.

He advises job seekers who want to get on the radar of recruiters to make an effort to physically meet up over a coffee. “Asking for the time of day to get to know the recruiter would help,” he says. “Usually, in person meetings are a great way to get a sense of who you are.”

Photo by Joshua Ang on Unsplash

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