Half of DBS jobs now outside Singapore as bank ramps up regional recruitment

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Looking for a job at DBS? You should search right across Asia, not just in Singapore.

Of the 21,000 employees at DBS, 11,000 (52%) are now based outside Singapore, says Theresa Phua, managing director of business HR at DBS. Hong Kong, China, Taiwan and Indonesia have the firm’s four largest overseas workforces and are also (along with India) its main foreign markets for adding more staff this year, says Phua without providing headcount expansion targets. The bank currently has 111 advertised vacancies in Hong Kong alone –  about a quarter of its 432 openings across Asia.

DBS is not the only Singaporean bank growing its workforce beyond its headquarters. OCBC, for example, is looking to expand its mainland trade finance business following its the US$5bn acquisition of Wing Hang Bank in Hong Kong last year. Broker KGI Fraser Securities noted in a report last month that local banks in Singapore need to expand overseas as Singapore's economic growth slows.

Phua says DBS has some common recruitment objectives across Hong Kong, China, Taiwan and Indonesia. For example, while Singapore is its main wealth management hub, it is also looking for onshore relationship managers (RMs) in these overseas markets. The firm's regional private-banking RM workforce rose by 52 to reach 267 last year – mainly due to its takeover of Societe Generale's Asia private banking arm. This acquisition made DBS a much larger player in wealth management (its Asian assets under management rose by 34% in 2014), which is now helping it to attract more RMs, despite the fiercely competitive job market in the sector, say headhunters. “We’re also recruiting relationship managers in consumer banking and corporate banking in our four key foreign markets,” adds Phua.

While DBS, ranked the "safest bank in Asia" by Global Finance last year, hasn’t been under the regulatory microscope in the same way as many of its US and European competitors, governance-related hiring is still a priority as the firm builds regulatory support for its regional expansion. “With growing affluence in Asia and more complex regulations governing the banking industry, we see an increasing need for talent in the compliance, governance and risk management space,” says Phua.

Hiring risk and compliance talent is tough enough in Singapore and Hong Kong, but in emerging markets like mainland China and Indonesia, DBS is finding it even more difficult. “Recruitment for specialised positions like compliance continues to be a challenge because of the comparatively smaller talent pool. It usually takes longer to hire for these roles,” explains Phua.

The next overseas hiring challenge for DBS is finding more data analytics professionals. “We’re focusing on data analytics to get insights to make better business decisions and we’re looking to recruit employees who are technology and social-media savvy and can tackle problems with a digital mindset,” explains Phua.

There’s a familiar problem on the horizon, though. As we reported last month, other banks in Asia – including J.P. Morgan, Deutsche Bank and Citi – are also taking on more data scientists and analysts in Asia. “The demand for such talent is higher than the supply and we see a shortage of experienced data analysts in the region,” says Phua. “So we’re open to recruiting from start-ups and technology and social-media companies, keeping a lookout for up-and-coming UX designers, app developers, digital marketers and social-media evangelists.”

But not all of DBS’ regional hiring needs this year will be met by poaching people from other companies. In 2014, about 25% of its vacancies were filled by existing staff transferring between countries and/or departments.

DBS also runs rotational schemes for employees to gain overseas experience. “Through our internal mobility programme, people are mobilised to work on important projects overseas or rotated into roles in our key markets,” says Phua. “We’ve also launched two other programmes where more junior employees get the opportunity to work in another DBS office and develop their skills exponentially through this overseas exposure. This rotation could last up to two years.”

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