If you work in a relationship manager job in corporate banking in Singapore or Hong Kong you were until recently in a very stable position. Now things are starting to change, for the worse. A major new report from the Monetary Authority of Singapore has surprisingly (and alarmingly) highlighted RM jobs as being at “high risk” of being impacted by automation over the next three to five years.
If you want to survive as a corporate banking relationship manager in Asia, you need to make sure you have the right skills. Here’s how to stay safe.
As you become more experienced as an RMs you may be given a specific sector to cover – and that means you must stay on top of industry-wide trends, not just the day-to-day concerns of individual clients. “You must have a finger on the pulse of business, and understand how trends such as technological shifts are disrupting industries,” says a head of HR at a major bank in Singapore.
You won’t just be using your interpersonal and communication skills to manage current client relationships – the corporate banking sector is becoming increasingly competitive and banks need RMs who can consistently expand their client books. “They want a balance between farmer (service) and hunter (sales) traits,” says former ANZ corporate banker Jerald Chen, now a recruiter in Singapore. “These days banks’ performance scorecards emphasise both.”
“Consultative” sales skills
The ability to mount aggressive sales pitches isn’t necessary, however. “The selling skills you need are consultative and advisory – especially when dealing with small and medium-sized companies who don’t have a big internal finance team and are seeking support from banks,” says Anamika Singh, a former BNP Paribas corporate banker who’s now a senior consultant at Hudson.
If you’re considering a relationship manager career because you think your schmoozing skills will make up for your lack of financial knowledge, think again. You may have product specialists to support you, but you still require a good understanding of what you’re selling. “You need a sound knowledge of banking products, such as cash management, treasury, investment banking, and trade finance,” says Jacinta Low, a VP of human resources at OCBC.
You’ll be supported by credit risk teams, but helping to assess your clients’ creditworthiness is still a vital component of a relationship manager job. RMs need “good analytical skills to perform credit reviews and credit propositions”, says Low. “A credit background and understanding of the capital markets are useful to make a good RM,” adds Gary Lai, managing director at recruiters Charterhouse.
Leadership and teamworking
Contrary to the stereotype, relationship managers aren’t lone-wolf salespeople whose only objective is to meet their personal revenue targets – they must work closely with colleagues in compliance, client onboarding, product development and many other functions within the corporate bank. “Teamworking and leadership skills are essential for managing deal teams, influencing product partners, advising senior management, and bringing all these people together to achieve the best outcomes for your client and the bank,” says Chen.
Asian language skills
Corporate banking relationship managers in Singapore and Hong Kong are increasingly servicing the regional business needs of their clients. “Fluency in languages like Mandarin or Malay is often useful in this part of the world as Singapore is a regional headquarters for many companies with large business interests in Malaysia, Indonesia and Greater China,” says Lai.
Photo by Fabrizio Conti on Unsplash
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