How to make a stunningly successful career change in Asian banking
As banks in Asia try to alleviate skill shortages and reduce hiring costs, they’re slowly becoming more open to moving staff into new departments.
In the front office, private banks are taking on priority bankersand even investment bankers. Operational risk and complianceare also fertile grounds for those seeking a career change, while candidates from “all over the place” are moving into internal audit. Click here for a list of other potential career changes in Asian banking.
Nevertheless, transferring into a new function or team is still notoriously difficult. If you’re contemplating a career change in Singapore or Hong Kong next year, we’ve complied some advice that could help you make a successful shift Share on twitter.
Banks in Asia are still under pressure from head offices to keep recruitment costs under control – it’s far less expensive to move people within their ranks than it is to poach them from a rival. “And within your own firm you have goodwill, reputation and credibility, so the risk associated with shifting into a new line of business is reduced,” says Nick Wells, a director at search firm Webber Chase in Singapore. “The more internal credit you generate, the better your chances – appeal as a person and team member rather than purely a CV or skill set.”
Or network externally in advance
Making a career change into a new firm is difficult, even in talent-short areas of Asian banking. Agency recruiters are paid to find perfect-fit candidates and some may not even be interested in speaking with you. “But if there isn’t any possibility of internal progression, approaching talent acquisition teams at other banks will get you on their radar in advance,” says Wells. “Build up a relationship with them directly to get to the top of their lists when they are hiring.”
Be a high performer
If you’re making a career change, you must first be (very) successful in your current department – banks will reason that star employees are less likely to flunk out in a new role. “You need to prove that you’re good in your job and in previous positions, and have stayed in roles for a sufficient length of time,” says Vince Natteri, director of recruitment at search firm Pinpoint Asia in Hong Kong.
Most career changes in the Asian banking sector are made at the mid to senior level, says Ben Batten, country general manager of recruitment firm Volt in Singapore. “Having fundamental experience is imperative. Trying to move too early means you don’t have enough expertise within your initial area.”
Gather support from within
It will, of course, greatly aid you claim for a career change if you’re already speaking to a captive audience. Support from your existing manager is crucial if you’re moving within the same bank, so mention your ambitions well in advance of when you actually want to change jobs – don’t drop a last-minute bombshell that could leave your manager short staffed.
Provide clear reasons
If you’re talking to your current (or potential future) manager, make sure to articulate clear reasons – that benefit both you and the bank – for the proposed career change, says Batten. Better progression opportunities and a desire to gain additional skills are fundamental to most successful moves. Be sure to emphasise the attractions of the new job rather that the limitations of your current one.
Pre-empt any push-back
As well as knowing your own motivations, try to second guess why the bank may have doubts about your career change. Current staffing demands mean banks in Asia are, for example, increasingly moving front-office focused fintech staff into roles supporting the back office, says Natteri from Pinpoint. “But managers are often concerned that these former FO tech guys will get bored and start looking for another FO role soon after they move. Those who successfully transition have reasons beyond ‘there are no FO jobs available now’ – for example, BO roles usually expose you to the entire trade life cycle, whereas FO jobs only focus on one part.”
Move to where there are overlapping technical skills
Middle-office jobs aren’t just in demand in Singapore and Hong Kong right now – the skills they require tend to be comparatively transferable. “The most obvious move is from internal audit to product control or financial control – which makes sense since much of the technical knowledge needed exists in both,” says Batten from Volt.
Work for an Asian bank
Local banks like DBS and OCBC (or Asian-focused international firms) tend to have a successful track record of internal transfers – when you don’t pay as well as the bulge bracket, career progression is a key benefit. Standard Chartered, for example, encourages staff to change jobs (and sometimes even departments) every two years. “For these banks it’s a strategy to retain staff, to provide alternate career paths, and also to differentiate themselves from the competition,” explains Batten.
Don’t push for a pay rise
You may be plugging an important talent gap within the bank, but that won’t necessarily get you a pay rise. Because you don’t have all the skills to hit the ground running in the new role, you remain a relatively risky hire for the bank. The majority of movers have to settle for the same salary or even take a cut, warns Wells from Webber Chase.
To see the original report, click here.