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Singapore private banks struggle to find ESG expertise

Private banks in Singapore are starting to hire senior people with expertise in environmental and social governance (ESG). But foreign candidates are needed to plug talent shortages.

“Given the infancy of our ESG movement in Asia, most banks are employing ESG professionals at a senior level who have the experience and skills to drive meaningful changes for the company,” says Lim Chai Leng, general manager at Randstad Singapore. “They will also need to build a team that is capable of performing due diligence, updating and assessing new procedures and reporting requirements, which would then require the skills of younger recruits.”

For the most part, Asia lags behind Europe and North America when it comes to the number of private banking professionals with a high working knowledge of ESG issues, says Melody Leow, a senior consultant, banking and financial services, at Ambition in Singapore. “We are seeing a lot more foreigners with those qualifications rather than Singaporeans,” she adds.

The new ESG hiring trend comes as the Association of Banks in Singapore laid out guidelines in October to help private banks integrate sustainability practices. Meanwhile, Singapore’s Private Banking Industry Group has set up a Singapore-based training course to help private bankers get up to speed in sustainability.

The overall impetus for the adoption of ESG in the private banking sector is coming from a global regulatory environment which emphasises how the financial industry can play a bigger role in helping to achieve climate targets such as net-zero emission goals.

“Major private banks and investment management firms are introducing sustainability ratings to support their clients’ investment decision-making. The investments are rated based on either in-house tools or more standardised and established market data platforms,” says Lim. “We are hence seeing the creation of new roles within private banks for ESG research or investment analytics, with a focus on sustainable financing.”

Some positions, such as marketing and brand management, require only an informal understanding of ESG, while candidates for other jobs, including risk, data analytics and compliance, are required to meet certification standards.

Wealth management isn’t the only part of the Singapore finance sector experiencing a surge in ESG hiring. Banks including BNP Paribas, Deutsche Bank, ING, Standard Chartered and Citi have been making ESG appointments across their wider businesses in Singapore, as have buy-side players such as Abrdn, Robeco and Schroders.

Photo by Douglas Sanchez on Unsplash

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