There is a common misconception that there is a huge difference in pace and culture between Asian and foreign multinational banks. However, with the tables turned post global financial crisis, some Asian banks have aggressively expanded, invested in product suites and platforms, and hired some strong foreign talent – leading to a strong competitive edge over foreign banks. With Asia being the key driver of economic growth across the world, now may be a good time to consider opportunities in an Asian bank.
Asian banks have a multicultural way of looking at things, and are often much stronger in key economies like China as compared to their foreign counterparts. In fact, there is an increasing demand in both Asian and foreign banks for professionals with strong Asian experience. In an increasingly competitive and even saturated market, local networks become crucial to an individual’s success.
Gone are the days when one could smoothly talk oneself into a deal. Now, knowledge and experience of the Asian context is essential to all banking professionals.
The good and the bad
Asian banks are increasingly popular for their stability and healthy balance sheets. While some may still view them as conservative and slow, they are extremely popular for their strong regional presence, avoidance of retrenchment, and their ability to inspire more client confidence in the Asian markets. This means good opportunities for banking professionals, and more and more foreign bank talent are moving over to these upcoming employers.
Foreign banks are often regarded as better employers for their higher remunerations and wider range of opportunities. There is no doubt that some Asian bank salaries will remain lower than the foreign banks, particularly on the investment banking front.
However, for most other parts of the banking business, Asian banks are mostly on par or close to what foreign banks can offer.
Getting into the banking industry remains competitive, particularly in the areas of retail banking, commercial banking, wealth management, and some parts of corporate banking.
While retail and commercial banking and wealth management are likely to expand, corporate & transaction are likely to be mostly replacement headcount. Investment banking is expected to be slow and Asian banks may be able to pick up good foreign bank talent.
The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Asian Banking & Finance. The author was not remunerated for this article.
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Finian Toh is the manager of the financial services division at Robert Walters Singapore. Robert Walters is an award-winning business and one of the leading international recruitment consultancies.