Last year saw a 28% surge in demand for Banking and Finance skills in Singapore and the Financial Services sector is still thriving into 2018.

This article originally appeared on LinkedIn.

Last year saw a 28% surge in demand for Banking and Finance skills in Singapore and the Financial Services sector is still thriving into 2018. Its GDP is expected to grow almost twice as fast as the national economy, with over half of that increase driven by productivity. Singapore’s government is planning to create 9,000 jobs in Financial Services over the next three years with another 1,000 jobs a year in Fintech. This is all hugely positive news for the sector – until it comes to the question of hiring, where organisations have found themselves facing a genuine skills shortage in some key areas.

Where and why is there a skills shortage?

Technology has advanced so rapidly in Banking and Finance that the demand for certain skills in emerging fields has rocketed. Our research shows the top four most sought after skills in this space are:

  1. Big Data Analytics (30%)
  2. Project Management (28%)
  3. Cybersecurity (11%)
  4. Programming (6%)

The skills shortage in these competencies is exacerbated by a number of other factors, which are driving organisations to look abroad to sustain their growth plans. Firstly, the technology is relatively new, so despite recent increases in education programmes and qualifications in these areas, there is no pipeline yet of home-grown graduates coming through the system.

Next is the brain drain issue in the Finance space. About 4,000 Singaporeans from the financial sector are working overseas, predominantly in Greater China, the US, the UK and Australia.

Lastly, the 2018 Budget bolstered the rules on hiring foreigners, to address Singaporeans’ complaints about competition for jobs from outsiders. Some companies will be required to open certain vacancies to locals for a limited period of time before foreigners can be considered. After listing 500 companies that unfairly favour foreigners when hiring, the government is keen to encourage local employment first.

What’s the solution?

The disruption in the sector from advances in technology means that organisations going through digital transformation will potentially be challenged with surplus staff. This leads to the first solution: reskilling existing employees. In a recently announced initiative, approximately 160 member banks of the Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS) will observe a new set of practices that will help retrain and redeploy their workforce into the areas where they are currently short on skills. The proposal also has a knock-on effect on softening hiring criteria.

The second solution is to attract Singaporeans back from working overseas. The Monetary Authority of Singapore has recently set up local networking events in the cities the talent left for, as well as introduced a targeted LinkedIn community to encourage communication and hopefully persuade some to return.

We firmly believe that the raw talent does exist in Singapore, but employer investment will be required from a reskilling perspective. There are also increasing calls in Singapore for a more diverse and inclusive workforce, so opportunities for women and contract roles should not be overlooked. Our own research shows that candidates in Singapore do want to retrain, but are struggling with initiating this:

  • Almost all (94%) want to boost their employability
  • The vast majority (89%) are not aware of any kind of reskilling programme offered by their employer
  • Over half (55%) say that they are actively taking courses to reskill

As there is clearly a willing workforce, employer banks and financial organisations should take advantage. Signing up to the ABS scheme is a positive first step, but collaborating with a relevant recruitment agency could be vital. At Hydrogen and Argyll Scott, we’re already partnering with government agencies to drive more reskilling training. We also have a dedicated team exploring our networks and consolidating our relationships with the candidate population abroad, in order to understand their career ambitions and their potential timescales or requirements that could see them return to Singapore.

For hiring into niche areas, we believe that the mind-set and also candidate experience needs to move with the times. In our experience, holding out for a candidate who 100% matches the hiring criteria (especially when sourcing a contractor) is increasingly unsuccessful. Specialist skills are in such demand that something, such as years of experience, has to be relaxed. These candidates also hold all the cards, remember, so paying attention to their journey throughout the hiring process can be a competitive differentiator.

If you’d like to find out more about how we could help you, please get in touch:


About the author



Adam Solomons

Director, Hydrogen Group

Adam Solomons is Director of the Asia business for Hydrogen based in Singapore. After joining the group in London, he was part of the team to establish the Singapore office in 2009. Adam has a recruitment and consulting background in Technology & Business Transformation and has an extensive APAC network in the Financial Services industry. In his current role, he is responsible for driving the growth of our core practices as well as being Account Director for Asia key accounts.