$100k pay rises possible in Asian banking – as long as you don’t want to lead a team

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With jobs growth exceeding candidate supply in Singapore, some senior transaction bankers can expect bumper pay rises Share on twitter (or at least an internal promotion) next year. But the most significant salary spikes will be reserved for those who don’t mind getting their hands dirty doing deals and staking out new clients.

For senior transaction bankers moving to a new firm post-bonus in early 2015, a salary uptick of about 30% could be on the cards, predicts Christina Ng, executive director at LMA Recruitment in Singapore. This could translate into a rise of S$54k to S$105k as salaries in the sector at VP to director level in Singapore range between S$180k and S$350k, according to recruiters Robert Walters.

Those wanting to stay put next year won’t get anything like that kind of pay rise – 5% is more typical. “Internal increments remain closer to the inflation rate unless you’re a real star performer,” says Ng. “But banks want to retain transaction bankers, so I expect bonuses to be healthy and for them to utilise better titles and promotions as a way to keep people on board.”

While those with the best chance of picking up a decent pay rise will be senior, they will most likely be in deal-making rather than leadership roles, says Farida Charania, Asia Pacific CEO of search firm Nastrac Group in Singapore.

Ng agrees: “Professionals with at least 10 years of experience will be sought after in 2015, but not for team-head positions. Banks are looking for people who can bring in new clients, can work independently, and who aren’t gunning to be the boss. They need contributors more than managers.”

While Standard Chartered, HSBC and Citi boast the biggest market share in Asia transaction banking, according to research firm East & Partners, smaller but more expansionist banks are set to offer the best packages to lure new talent next year.

The heavy recruiters include established players like ANZ, BNP Paribas and the Singaporean firms DBS and UOB, according to a headhunter in Singapore who asked not to be named. Lum Yin Fong, managing director of global transaction services at DBS, told us in an interview earlier this year that DBS was hiring in cash management and trade financing, while UOB announced in September that it was recruiting in transaction banking and that the department’s global headcount had reached 250.

The anonymous headhunter expects all these banks to continue their expansion in 2015 – along with some newer entrants, such as the Middle Eastern firms, National Bank of Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank and Qatar National Bank. Japanese banks are recruiting, too. Mizuho continues to build the new transaction-banking unit it opened in Singapore in October, while Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ is expanding its current Singapore-based transaction-banking headcount of 60 in a bid to win more business from Japanese corporates.

“Japanese and Middle Eastern banks have been quite competitive with compensation as they’re aware that they need to offer an incentive to bring in top talent – their culture and client base remains a barrier that some candidates aren’t able to cross,” says the headhunter.

Wholesale transaction-banking revenues in Asia Pacific are expected increase to US$139 billion by 2022, from $46 billion in 2012, according to a report by the Boston Consulting Group.

“The sector is considered a relatively safe and less capital-intensive area and there will be continued hiring next year,” says Ng from LAM. “The key areas of job demand remain in trade finance, especially in commodities and syndicated trade finance – as these are considered niche skill sets.”

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