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The sweet homecoming of the returnee Asian banker

With global banks slashing jobs in the West and reiterating their commitment to hire strategically in the East, it's perhaps not surprising that there seems to be trend of Asian bankers returning home after overseas stints. A recent Michael Page poll found that more Singaporean professionals are flocking home to work because of the stronger job market.

Recruiters we spoke to couldn't give exact figures, but they believe a rise in returnee bankers is undeniable. Chris Mead, general manager, Hays Singapore, says: "Anecdotally there is a definite preference from employers to hire returning Asians and Singaporeans. There is an increasing trend of banking professionals returning to Singapore because of this preference."

Saskia Van Dijk, associate director, Michael Page Financial Services, adds: "Firms are looking for people with real connections to the region, particularly in more senior roles as they try to build out a sustainable management structure."

The lure of the east

A homecoming makes sense on different levels. For most candidates, it boils down to career opportunities and family.

Mead says the banking and financial services employment market in London and New York is weaker compared with the relatively buoyant market in Singapore and Asia. Taxation rates are also more attractive in Singapore (up to 20 per cent for residents), as compared with the 25 to 50 per cent rate in the US and UK, he notes.

Family is another factor. Van Dijk says: "The responsibility to return to look after aged relatives is more obvious in Asian culture and so there are higher proportions of returnees than in other cultural groups."

The profile of a successful returnee banker

Gary Lai, managing director, South East Asia, Charterhouse says: "Will banks be keen to hire returnee Asians? Yes, but only if they have sufficient experience in Asia, there's not much point in hiring someone who has only worked in the West." Ideally, these bankers should have not more than seven to eight years of only foreign work experience, says Lai.

So which professionals are the most transferable across jurisdictions? Investment bankers, traders in certain commodities, FX traders, product controllers, risk managers, project managers and potentially private bankers servicing Asian clients out of Europe, says Lai.

Candidates contemplating a sweet homecoming complete with fat salaries should note that firms are unlikely to pay a premium for them. While compensation will vary from bank to bank, Mead says: "We have not been seeing significantly aggressive increases or packages being used to lure returning Asian talent. Banks are very much aware that at the moment Singapore and Asia offer good opportunities compared with elsewhere."

Chew on this

Want to return to Asia? Mead suggests considering this first:

· Make sure your expectations are aligned with what the market can offer.

· Don't move just for money, consider long-term career growth prospects. There are career opportunities in Asia that are simply not available in the West.

AUTHORShree Ann Mathavan Insider Comment

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