Lenders turn to Singapore for growth

As they continue to establish themselves outside of Hong Kong, international banks are increasing their headcount in Singapore.

“Every bank I speak to is looking to increase their footprint in South East Asia and that means hiring or locating more bankers in Singapore,” says one Hong Kong-based headhunter. “In the past big banks have located specific country or product bankers in Singapore, while locating industry teams in Hong Kong, but this is changing.”

The Covid limits in Hong Kong is a key propellant for the shift, but bankers expect the trend to persist beyond covid. Bankers with the necessary expertise are beginning to move to retain their customers as Singapore draws more fintech firms.

Jwalant Nanavati, head of Nomura’s Asia-ex-Japan technology, media, and telecom (TMT) division, would relocate from Hong Kong to Singapore to oversee the Japanese bank’s Southeast Asian investment banking operations. After she was announced as the new head of equities capital markets for Southwest Asia, Sophie Qian relocated last month from New York to Singapore.

Jefferies is one of the examples of lenders currently recruiting in South East Asia. David Biller, who joined Jefferies from Citigroup as the Southeast Asia head, switched from London to Singapore this month.

Christopher Laskowski, who joined Jefferies from Citi a year ago as head of Asia investment banking in Hong Kong, and Biller are reuniting. One insider with knowledge of the bank stated, “Biller will be assembling a team.” However, the source added that “there is limited talent locally, so you could see even more bankers relocate.”

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