A staggering 90% of employers in Singapore's financial sector plan to hire staff during the next six to 12 months, according to a survey by consultants Morgan McKinley. And almost 60% think that the increase will be mainly driven by a need for additional headcount.
"This is a very positive result for the domestic recruitment market and reflects the improvement in sentiment prevalent over the past couple of months," said Jeremy Canning, managing director of Morgan McKinley in Singapore.
The results show a significant pick up in optimism compared with the results of the firm's survey last May, when just 53% of employers in Singapore said recruitment of professionals would start to increase by the end of 2009.
Canning points out that the economic crisis and few signs of a recovery had forced some businesses to implement hiring freezes and many others to delay recruitment in late 2008 and during much of 2009.
But, the pace of job losses across all sectors in the city-state slowed by more than 50% between April and June last year compared with the previous three months, and the unemployment rate steadied at 3.3% as job vacancies rose for the first time after four quarters of declines, according to Singapore's Manpower Ministry.
Economic activity has strengthened since plummeting in the six months following the Lehman Brothers collapse in September 2008. The country's GDP grew by an annualised, seasonally adjusted 14.9% in the third quarter of 2009, after a jump of 22% in the previous three months.
Also -- and this might gladden those who feared the banking gravy train had turned to sludge -- in a salary survey conducted concurrently with the one on the recruitment market, over 60% of Morgan McKinley's respondents in the financial services sector expect basic salaries within their business to increase during the year. More than 70% still reckon there will be bonus payments, with over half say bonuses will be similar to or higher than the 2008 payouts.
"These results suggest that confidence is returning to the market and hence employers are prepared to reward in line with the market improving," said Canning.
Both surveys were targeted at senior level operations and human resources managers in November, and received 134 responses. They included both domestic and foreign financial firms, and the replies covered potential high-level personnel in front, middle and back offices.
Talent retention and attraction are the key personnel issues highlighted by employers for this year and financial institutions are expected to tackle these issues with a number of measures including: training, development, talent planning -- and, it seems, cash.
However, not all are convinced. A third of employers replied that they believe salaries are likely to remain unchanged due to a primary focus on cost management, and 5.2% of them expect salaries to decrease.
A concentration on cost management too by more than 50% of respondents was the reason why most employers expect salaries to stay the same this year in the non-financial commerce and industry sectors. Yet, even those who predict that salaries will fall still plan to recruit in 2010, with two-thirds of the total respondents planning to add bodies.
Spending to accumulate fees, Morgan McKinley itself opened a new, larger office in Singapore on January 7 in preparation for what it expects to be a busy year, it said last week.