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Singapore Banking and Finance Jobs and Opportunities
Snapshot of Singapore’s Banking and Finance Sector
The finance industry includes a broad range of services, including banking, derivatives trading, asset management, risk management, insurance and much more.
Singapore’s banking and financial services sector is a powerhouse of the economy, servicing local businesses as well as acting as a financial hub for the wider Asia-Pacific region, a nexus of global trade, a major source of Foreign Direct Investment and an attractive place for High Net-Worth Individuals to place their wealth. It is responsible for more than 12% of the nation’s GDP. Not only does this sector contain hundreds of local banks and financial services firms, but most of the world’s largest multinational banks have set up major posts in Singapore, giving it a global banking significance rivalled only by Hong Kong. Singapore’s status as a global banking centre is in part due to the government’s pro-business stance, the actions of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (designed to make Singapore the leader in the region when it comes to wealth management and risk management), low tax rates, and the cultural ethos of saving and investment which has been instilled in the average Singaporean and encouraged by the government. These factors have contributed to a high demand not only for financial services not only among large companies and the very wealthy, but from ordinary people as well. Singapore’s foreign Exchange market is the fourth largest in the world, and the Asian Dollar Market is hugely important, not only for Singapore but for the development of Asia. From other countries in the region, there is also increasing demand for financial services from Singapore, such as insurance and underwriting. Finally, the cultural and ethnic diversity enjoyed by Singapore works to its advantage as it strives to market itself to rising economies in Asia, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and even Africa.
What do you need to get a job in this industry?
The swift and steady growth of the financial sector in Singapore means that there is a constant demand from employers to find new talent to fuel continued expansion. However despite this demand, it is by no means an easy task for a graduate to get a job in this industry, as the government’s open-door policy regards international talent means the job market is fiercely competitive. There is a “glut” of Singaporean graduates flooding the market, who in turn have to compete with some of the brightest minds from the wider Asia-Pacific region and beyond. In recent years, graduate unemployment has increased, and those who are employed increasingly have to start with relatively low-paying jobs.
Graduate Programs in Singapore
Graduate programs in Singapore are not as common as they are in some other countries - they are offered mainly by the big multi-national firms. Of course they are in the highest demand, as they provide graduates with management training and experience across a variety of different functions of the business – both factors that surveys have shown to be increasingly important to Singapore’s university-leavers. Entry level jobs however are a graduate’s main avenue of entry to the finance sector. Here too though, competition can be intense. A university degree in a relevant discipline is important, but not enough to secure a job in this industry. It is the skills which are more important to employers, and often a university education alone will not teach everything that’s necessary. Practical experience – in a part time job, or an internship – will be of immense help to a young job-seeker in finance. In addition, those who can combine a strong grasp of theory and application of financial tools, with a high level of cross-cultural communication and problem-solving ability, will find it to be a great advantage when applying for a graduate job in finance.
Where can you work in Finance and Banking?
There are plenty of career paths available to people looking to work in finance. The banking sector itself is split into three main categories based on who they serve – businesses (commercial banking), High Net-Worth Individuals (private banking) and members of the public (retail banking). Within these categories, banking can be further categorised according to origin (local banks such as the Development Bank of Singapore or foreign banks such as Standard Charter). Some banks provide only a selection of services and cater to a specific section of the market. Others (“full banks” such as Citibank or HSBC) undertake the full gamut of banking activities. As well as privately owned banks and corporations, public finance (in the form of working for the government-owned financial institutions) is a good choice to consider.
Types of Finance Jobs:
- Financial Analyst/Strategist
The role of the financial analyst involves evaluating potential investments in light of their financial statements, management insights, and knowledge about the microenvironment and the broader economic climate. Financial analysts are crucial to investment banks, insurance firms, hedge-funds and wealth-management funds, as it is their insight and work that informs a firm’s investment decisions. Often their role will include advising an investor on which financial strategy is best to employ in particular circumstances or markets – this role may also be undertaken by a more specialised position – that of the financial strategist.
- Financial Advisor
“Financial advisor” is a broad term that can be used to describe many different roles that fall under the category of rendering financial services to clients. It is more often used in the context of retail banking than corporate banking. Work involved may include brokering, financial planning, tax preparation and legal advice. Financial advisors often specialise – some work independently, some work for small financial services firms, and others work for large corporations.
- Quantitative Analyst (Quant)
A quantitative analyst is a financial analyst who specialises in the use of maths and statistics to value investments such as currencies, stocks and derivatives. They are essential to investment banking and wealth management, as their work is a basis on which a bank’s investment strategies are made. They are also important for risk management and stock-pricing.
- Financial Risk Manager
Risk management is an important part of the Singaporean finance industry, especially as globalisation and technological change create uncertain conditions with both risks and opportunities for growth. The role of the financial risk manager is to identify, manage, and measure levels of risk, taking into account factors within and outside the company, in order for management to make informed investment decisions. This is especially important given how much of finance is based at least partly in speculation.
- Portfolio Manager
Portfolio managers are the decision makers behind most major financial institutions’ investment decisions. They take the information given to them by the financial analysts, weight the advice and opinions of risk managers, stakeholders and financial strategists, before making a decision.
- Financial Commentator
Financial commentators do not work directly inside the banking and finance industry however they play an important role in bridging the communication gap between the industry and the rest of the world, by presenting and commentating on events in the economy that may be of interest to stakeholders, investors, company managers looking to keep an eye on their competitors and industry trends, and ordinary people. Work may include writing articles for the news, doing research into a company’s recent performance in the share market and offer opinions into the various reasons why such things may have taken place. Financial commentators often act as unofficial advisors to the laypeople who are not able or inclined to hire a qualified financial advisor. Jobs in this industry are fast-paced, stimulating, and well-suited to someone with a flair for written and verbal communication.
Professional certification is the next step for many people wishing to progress in finance, especially in the investment banking sector. Working towards getting a CFA is commonplace in this industry, and your employer may help sponsor you in this. An alternative to the CFA is the CAIA (Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst) – a more specialist certification especially suited for private banking. Other forms of professional certification include the CFP (Certified Financial Planner), the CIIA (Certified International Investment Analyst) and the FRM (Financial Risk Manager). All of these qualifications require one to undergo a challenging program of further study and professional development.
Salary Estimates for Finance Graduates
Finance is well-known as a lucrative industry, however starting salaries are moderate. According to Payscale, starting salaries for financial analysts range widely, from S$31 866 to S$84,969. On top of this, bonuses range from ~S$1000 to almost S$20 000. The median earnings per year are around S$50 000. For retail bankers, the starting salaries are lower – with the median being around S$32,982
Benefits for finance workers frequently include monetary bonuses (sometimes tied to performance) and profit-sharing, which can supplement the starting salary. The larger the firm, the more likely they are to have a good bonus package.