As RBS winds down in Singapore, rival banks close in on staff

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As Royal Bank of Scotland begins to slash the size of its Singapore workforce, recruiters and rival banks are poaching staff from the firm without giving them the high pay rises that are typically on offer in the city state.

RBS’s business lines in Singapore now include transaction banking, corporate banking and debt capital markets, but the bank is turning Singapore into a mere sales and trading hub as it refocuses its operations on the UK market. RBS has not confirmed the exact number of upcoming job losses, or outlined a timescale, but it is thought that its Singapore headcount will shrink from 1,500 to around 200.

“I met a senior manager at RBS recently and I know many of the staff have been told they will be finishing up at the end of this year,” says one of the five Singapore-based recruiters we spoke to, all of whom asked not to be named.

Meanwhile, agency and in-house recruiters at other banks aren’t waiting around for RBS employees to get their final marching orders. “Everyone is deliberately going after RBS people at the moment and likewise RBS candidates are being proactive when they need to find a new role,” says a second recruiter. “Over time most of them will probably be being absorbed into other banks.”

The bulk of RBS staff whose jobs are on the line work in talent-short sectors of Singaporean finance like corporate banking, risk, compliance and audit – so large commercial banks such as Citi, HSBC, Standard Chartered and DBS are among their most likely new employment destinations. One recruiter told us he’d recently also placed RBS candidates into Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, which is currently expanding in transaction banking, and Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

If you’re an RBS employee contemplating moving before you’re laid off, don’t expect to land a large salary rise – even though increments of 20% or more are common for middle-office and corporate-banking candidates in Singapore. “The difficulty of hiring staff from RBS is that their base salaries are among the highest in the industry due to RBS’s cap on bonuses. You’ll price yourself out of the market unless you’re prepared to lower your salary and consider an offer based on potential total compensation,” says another recruiter.

So far it seems RBS staff have accepted their fall down the salary scale. “They're pretty much in the mode of 'take what comes along', so most are moving when a suitable job crops up,” says a fifth recruiter. “There’s no point being committed to RBS and being the last one out only to find there are no jobs left in the market.”

While their comparatively high salaries and vulnerability to job cuts make RBS employees cost-effective candidates when rival banks recruit, there is no sigma associated with working for the bank as it winds down in Singapore. Recruiters say other firms are also attracted by the quality of the talent pool at RBS.

“They didn’t by their own hands ruin the bank’s reputation,” says the fifth recruiter. “They bring great skills and the benefit for other employers should be getting some good, experienced people who wouldn’t otherwise be looking.”

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