Finance jobseekers cheery but banks cautious about hiring: Study

Jobseekers looking for work in the financial services sector here are more optimistic about their prospects now than anytime in the past year, but banks are turning more cautious about hiring, a new survey has found. -- ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN
Jobseekers looking for work in the financial services sector here are more optimistic about their prospects now than anytime in the past year, but banks are turning more cautious about hiring, a new survey has found. -- ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

Jobseekers looking for work in the financial services sector here are more optimistic about their prospects now than anytime in the past year, but banks are turning more cautious about hiring, a new survey has found.

The Candidate Optimism Index compiled by recruitment firm Astbury Marsden now stands at 64.4, its highest level in a year. A score of 50 or higher demonstrates a positive sentiment on jobs.

Recent hiring activity has boosted candidates' optimism about the job market, the firm said.

Some 35 per cent of all Singapore-based banks and financial services businesses surveyed expanded their recruitment activity in the first three months of this year, up from 15 per cent six months ago.

Singapore has also recently become the world's largest centre outside Hong Kong for offshore yuan trading, reflecting its growing role in trade and investment flows between China and South East Asia, the firm noted.

However, companies are becoming more cautious about prospects for hiring in the next quarter, with Astbury Marsden's Employer's Optimism Index sliding to 41.3 points, reflecting a negative sentiment among employers.

"Candidates have noticed the wave of hiring at the start of the year, and that's certainly feeding into their expectations for the coming months. With their bonus cheques now safely banked, many may feel the time is right to move," said Mr Mark O'Reilly, the managing director of Astbury Marsden Asia Pacific.

"However, while employers are still more positive about hiring than they were at the tail end of last year, the banks are clearly not shrugging off recent concerns raised about the emerging markets, nor the long-term challenges presented by heavier capital requirements."

Recent, somewhat downbeat, news from some of the global banks on their investment banking arms, particularly their fixed income currency and commodities businesses, underline the reasons why there is still such caution about hiring despite a fairly strong year so far, he added.

Nonetheless, a more intense regulatory focus on compliance means that recruitment to certain specialist roles is still strong, he said.

"Hiring for roles in regulation, internal audit, compliance and IT security all remain strong as the banks respond to continued pressure from the regulators.

"While other support and even professional functions might get off-shored to lower cost jurisdictions, these are all seen as crucial to meeting regulators' expectations, so the banks prefer to keep them within their regional headquarters."