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Should you take a short-term contract in Asian banking?

Banks in Hong Kong and Singapore “blacklist” contractors who quit after just a few days

Contracting jobs in Singapore and Hong Kong are booming as global banks in the cities keep a tight rein on headcount costs. But the contracting market in Asia is still less mature than in Western financial centres.

Before you accept a contract, it pays to know what’s in store. Here's what to weigh up.

Don’t drop out

The Asian contract market is in its infancy, and too many candidates are accepting contracts while still waiting on permanent job offers, says Hong Kong recruiter Aily Foo. And if perm offers come in, they’re quitting their contract assignments “after only a few days”, she adds. “It’s highly likely that these candidates will then be blacklisted by the bank for any future roles.”

Push for more pay

“Banks in Asia are now constantly under pressure to reduce permanent headcount, but work still needs doing, so the solution is to hire more contractors,” says Elliot Jackson, head of contracting at recruiters Morgan McKinley in Singapore. “With this in mind, it’s now slowly becoming a market where candidates can request a slight increase in pay, because so many banks are competing for talent within a short time frame.”

Assess the skills

You should ideally be looking to take on contracts that give you new skills. “Before accepting a temporary position, consider if the role itself will benefit your longer-term career path,” says Foo. “Look at whether you could develop a new skill set, which could be a stepping stone for your career.”

Get your references ready

“Banks in Asia have been tightening their on-boarding and reference checks for contractors over the past year, so you should be prepared to provide all necessary documents and fill out disclosure forms,” says Chai Leng Lim, senior director of banking and financial services at recruitment firm Randstad in Singapore.

Mind your hours

“Be careful to watch out for having to work overtime and during local public holidays, especially if you support regional Asian markets, which may not have the same holiday calendars,” says Lim.

Pick a bank with the best benefits

“Historically, contractors in Singapore have had limited social benefits,” says Kate Silaeva, head of financial services at recruiters Hudson in Singapore. “But now some of the international banks provide contractors with a completion or conversion bonus, as well as benefits like a wider medical insurance package.”

Don’t always expect an extension  

“We’re seeing more and more roles being offshored to cost effective locations such as India and the Philippines, especially in finance and operations,” says Jackson from Morgan McKinley. “So there’s a risk that contracts won't be extended beyond the agreed tenure. That said, for strong performers, banks will still try to accommodate an internal move.”

Photo by Andrej Lišakov on Unsplash

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AUTHORSimon Mortlock Content Manager

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