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Survey shows that Singaporean employers are looking for staff who can work smarter, rather than work harder. But in most cases people need to work both hard and smart.

Singapore finance firms will want 'smart' cost-cutters in 2015

hard working in office

Most finance jobs require long hours, face time in the office and ability to work at unsociable hours at the behest of demanding managers. But could it be in the coming year that financial services employers want their staff to work smarter and help them cut costs, rather than simply burning the candle at both ends?

Finance recruiter Hays believes so - at least in Singapore. In its latest quarterly update on the financial services sector in the city state, it suggests - rather generically - that the top skill for 2015 in Singapore will be the ability to "work smarter". More specifically, Hays believes that financial services employers, under continued pressure to reduce costs, want to hire professionals who can identify time and cost inefficiencies and boost performance across the organisation.

Christine Wright, managing director of Hays in Asia, said: “Employers are hiring and they have positive intentions for the year ahead. In our conversations with employers, it’s clear that the greatest hotspots of demand will be for people who can help a business work smarter, not harder."

The financial sector in Singapore has held out better than either the US or Europe, but global organisations in the city state remain under pressure to reduce costs. Singapore's traditional strengths as a centre for back office processing and technology development have come under threat as financial services organisations look to ship these functions out to ever-cheaper locations. It makes sense, therefore, that those with the expertise to implement cost-efficiencies are seeing their services increasingly in demand.

Wright points out that within Singaporean employers, "All departments now need people who can analyse performance, review and improve processes, reduce costs and increase efficiencies." 

It is, however, unlikely that Singaporean organisations will simply allow their employees to 'work smarter' without putting in the hours. Singaporeans are already doing this. A working hour survey carried out by recruiters Morgan McKinley in September revealed that the majority of Singapore’s professionals are working in excess of their contractual hours, and that this is having an impact on their work-life balance.

More specifically, which skills are in demand within the financial sector, according to Hays? It focuses primarily on accounting, middle and back office positions, so here's its take on hot sectors:

Operational risk and compliance – These professionals continue to be in high demand due to the consistently changing regulatory landscape and focus on control measures.

Banking operations – Singapore continues to be a service hub for many banks, and operations teams are still being built out, with a particular demand for contractors.

Trade finance operations – The trade finance industry in Singapore continues to grow due to its large shipping industry. Support functions will need to expand.

Projects and change managers – Banks are constantly looking for cost savings and efficiency improvements and are increasing their projects teams.

Risk managers – There continues to be high demand for risk managers who can help banks keep on top of the latest regulatory developments.

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AUTHORThomas Zhang

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