Why you should wait another year to look for your next banking job in Singapore

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The impending launch of virtual banks in Singapore is likely to trigger a hiring boom, with the new online players recruiting from traditional banks, which will then be forced to replace staff who leave. But you’ll need to wait until the middle of next year to take advantage of the expected surge in vacancies.

In one of the largest shakeups of the banking sector in decades, the Monetary Authority of Singapore is now accepting applications for five new digital bank licenses – two full ones and three wholesale ones – that will be up for grabs until the end of the year. MAS will announce successful applicants in mid-2020, with the digital banks expected to launch a year later. Firms such as Singtel, Hong Leong Finance, Grab, Razer and InstaRem are said to be considering applications or joint applications.

It’s likely that virtual banks will start hiring as soon as they get the green light from MAS in the middle of next year, if Hong Kong’s recent experience of the sector is anything to go by. Hong Kong’s regulator granted eight licences earlier this year – including to applicants backed by firms such as Standard Chartered and Ant Financial Services – which sparked a boom in hiring that is helping to keep the city’s job market afloat, despite launch-date delays amid the civil unrest still sweeping the city.

“Our Hong Kong office has seen significant growth in its financial services business due to the virtual banks,” says Faiz Modak, senior manager of financial services technology at recruiters Robert Walters in Singapore. “I believe that a similar impact on hiring in Singapore is likely to happen when the licenses are granted here,” he adds.

While exact hiring numbers are hard to predict and some companies may transfer people internally to work in their virtual banking units, Modak says senior appointments will be made first as firms set up their management structures. In Hong Kong, Stan Chart established a virtual banking unit even before its licence was granted, and took on team heads across several functions, including engineering.  

“As with all startups, the virtual banks will hire in stages,” says Adam Davies, lead IT recruiter at iKas International in Singapore. “They will get their leaders across each discipline in place and build out teams across software engineering, IT operations, IT security, finance, business operations and so on,” he adds.

Singapore’s largest commercial banks – DBS, OCBC, UOB, Citi and Standard Chartered – are likely to be among the main headhunting grounds. These firms will in turn have to backfill staff who join virtual banks. Stan Chart has, however, not ruled out applying for a licence itself, alongside a partner.

Over time – likely in the second half of next year and into 2021 – most of the virtual banking jobs in Singapore will be for rank-and-file technologists. They will need software engineers with skills in fields such as Core Java, C#, Python, ReactJS, and AngularJS, says Davies. DevOps cloud engineers – with experience in AWS, Kubernetes, OpenShift, Docker, Ansible and Jenkins – will also be hired.

Other technology roles at virtual banks are likely to include UX/UI, cyber security, project management, and architecture positions, say Davies and Modak. “The AI and machine learning professionals and data scientists will probably get hired a little later on, when everything is up and running,” adds Davies.

Away from technology, virtual banks in Singapore will be recruiting next year in functions such as finance, risk, compliance and strategy.

Image credit: Sean Seah, Unsplash

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