Where to snag a 40% salary rise in Asian banking, even as hiring slumps

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Relationship managers (RMs) in Singapore’s corporate banking sector reached new heights of desirability in 2014. But although the job market is looking more muted for them this year, big pay rises are still on the cards for those with the right skills and industry expertise.

Hiring of corporate-banking RMs is already “less aggressive” than in 2014 as most banks focus on replacing those who leave rather than adding additional headcount, says Cheryl Koh, principal consultant at recruiters Selby Jennings in Singapore. The recruitment downturn comes as total Singapore bank lending fell in December from the previous month and economic growth in the country cools off.

International banks like Citi, HSBC and Standard Chartered are now sufficiently staffed up with RMs, although Singaporean firms DBS, OCBC and UOB will still be expanding their teams, says a recruiter in Singapore who asked not to be named. “There will be an increase in employees from foreign banks crossing over to Asian banks, which generally have a larger balance sheet and credit appetite in this area,” adds Lim Chaileng, associate director, banking and financial services, at recruitment firm Randstad in Singapore.

[efc_twitter text="Both local and foreign banks are reprioritising the skills they want from their RMs"] because of the more uncertain economic climate. “A credit-analysis background is now even more important,” says Farida Charania, Asia Pacific CEO of search firm Nastrac Group in Singapore. “The RM’s job is not just to sell for the bank but also to protect its interests.”

Not all relationship managers are finding themselves less sought after than last year. A continued skills shortage means trade-finance RMs remain in high demand, says Koh from Selby Jennings.

“There is likely to be job movement across the market after the forthcoming bonus period for RMs who are heavily specialised within trade finance,” adds Koh. “RMs covering commodities companies are also expected to have strong trade-finance product knowledge and be proficient in structuring trade solutions for their clients.”

Lim from Randstad adds: “In particular, we see strong demand for RMs who are experienced in dealing with corporate banking in the commodities sector, managing multinational companies with regional treasury centres in Singapore.”

[efc_twitter text="If you’re a trade-finance or commodities specialist, a pay rise of between 30% and 40% is possible"]when changing banks in Singapore, says Koh. Other RMs should expect about 20%. “Good RMs with a stable work history and strong client relationships and market knowledge will continue to get increases in this high range in 2015,” adds Charania from Nastrac. “It’s just going to be harder for them to move than it was last year.”

Despite these pay temptations, the most viable option for most RMs in Singapore this year is to stay put at their current firms. The high number of job moves made in 2014 means corporate banking is full of professionals with short current tenures – so building up a track record at one bank will ultimately help you stand out in the labour market. “Candidates who move every year or two are generally less preferred during the selection process – it’s recommended that RMs remain in their organisation for at least two years,” says Koh.

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