Goldman to swell to record size in Singapore with 100 tech hires

Singapore is becoming the focus of Goldman Sachs' regional strategy. PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE (BLOOMBERG) - Goldman Sachs Group plans to add about 100 staff in Singapore, taking its headcount in the South-east Asian financial hub to a record, following a tumultuous period in the region.

All of the new positions will mainly be in technology, and the appointments will take the number of employees in the city to more than 1,000, E.G. Morse, head of Goldman Sachs' regional operations, said in an interview. About 60 per cent of existing staff work in support and technology roles.

Part of the tech hiring will support the bank's cash management operations, a new area of business for Goldman Sachs, according to Mr Morse. The firm also plans to hire more investment bankers as it faces its "strongest deal pipeline for many years," he said.

"We are looking to really grow our franchise here across all products," Mr Morse said. "It's a significant and major client hub from banking clients to asset managers."

Singapore is becoming the focus of Goldman Sachs' regional strategy after the fallout from a corruption scandal involving Malaysia's 1MDB sovereign wealth fund tarnished its image in Asia and further afield. The bank joins global rivals expanding in the island state given its status as a rapidly growing wealth management center and an alternative to Hong Kong, which has been plagued by political unrest.

Goldman Sachs provides services such as investment banking, asset management, wealth management, securities and commodities trading out of its Singapore hub. The US bank's Asia operations contributed 14% of its global revenue last year.

The firm has hired 10 global macro traders in Singapore over the past 18 months and may add more wealth managers and commodity traders, Mr Morse said. It also joined the likes of JPMorgan Chase & Co and BNP Paribas to set up a foreign-exchange trading and pricing platform in the city that started operations this year.

Global reputation

While acknowledging that the 1MDB scandal - which saw Goldman Sachs pay about US$5 billion (S$6.6 billion) in fines to regulators from the United States to Malaysia and Singapore - hurt its reputation, Mr Morse emphasised that the controversy has not impacted the bank's hiring plans in Asia.

For over much of a decade, 1MDB became shorthand for one of the world's most daring heists - a conspiracy that spawned probes in Asia, the US and Europe. The authorities spent years tracking money that allegedly flowed from the fund into high-end art and real estate, a super yacht and a hit Hollywood movie.

In October, Goldman Sachs sealed a pact with the US Justice Department and other regulators that had been investigating the firm's role in raising billions for 1MDB that were later siphoned off by officials close to Malaysia's government. The board vowed to hold current and former executives accountable by seeking clawbacks, forfeitures and pay deductions.

Apart from being "a global reputational issue for the firm" the scandal "hasn't had significant impact to how we service clients in the region", said Mr Morse, who also heads fixed income, currencies and commodities sales in the Asia-Pacific region, excluding Japan.

"1MDB has not been an obstacle for us to hire the people that we have been hiring across the firm," he said.

In Malaysia, the focal point of the controversy, Goldman Sachs continues to operate businesses such as asset management, advisory services and debt capital markets.

"We are open to having dialogue with clients in Malaysia," Mr Morse said. "It's a gradual process of re-engagement."

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