Survey shows significant rise in financial services salaries

A survey by Robert Walters has found base salary increases across the board reflect a growing confidence within the market.

In its recently published bi-annual salary survey, Robert Walters, the international recruitment specialists, discovered that despite concern over the slow progress of Asia’s economic recovery, base salary increases across the board reflect a growing confidence within the market. The most marked salary increases in Asia were seen in audit, credit risk, compliance and financial and product control, with certain base salaries having risen by up to 25% within only six months.

Typically, the areas experiencing the most significant salary growth are the more niche areas where appropriately skilled individuals are scarce.

Collectively, the study surveyed over 400 blue chip corporations and financial institutions worldwide examining specific industry growth over the last six months. Broken down according to country and sector, the results were collated and measured against previous studies to provide conclusive and accurate statistics and relative sector overviews. Figures taken from the Tokyo report revealed variances in sector growth in accordance to areas of salary inflation. Base salaries for both accountants and senior management within financial services have risen more dramatically than those in Hong Kong or Singapore within a six-month period. The overall base salary increase in this field was recorded at an approximated average of 16%, although, in certain areas, salaries have risen by up to 25%.


Audit was pinpointed as the area of the highest salary growth in Tokyo, with base salaries for Junior Auditors reaching up to Y10 million (around $92,000), a rise of 25% from only six months ago. Base salaries for vice presidents & managers in audit have risen by up to 15.4%, ranging from between Y15 million to Y17 million, whilst those in head of audit positions should have seen average rise of 11.1% from six months ago with salaries starting from Y20 million.

Shane Sibraa, manager of the banking division of Robert Walters in Tokyo, believes that these results clearly indicate that Japan’s post-recessional recovery is quicker than traditional indicators are currently suggesting. The ongoing intra-organisational restructuring in Japan has opened up opportunities for local and overseas finance professionals.

Says Sibraa: “Tighter restrictions by regulatory bodies and the severe lack of bilingual auditors from the ‘Big 5’ in the market has put the pressure on for more detailed internal control, in efforts to secure good audit staff, be they local Japanese or sourced from overseas. As a result, salaries have soared.”

Product control within investment banks has also witnessed significant salary rises; vice presidents in this sector are receiving a base salary range of Y18 million to Y25 million, a significant rise of 20% from six months ago, whilst product analysts are seeing a 14.79% rise, earning from Y8 million upward.


Financial and product control have also seen the most significant wage increases in Singapore’s financial services sectors. Analysis showed that salaries within Financial Control have risen the most significantly over the last 12 months. Entry level accountants with post qualified experience are earning base salaries of between S$55,000 to S$70,000 ($31,587 to $40,202), an increase from 1999 of 16.7%, whilst senior executives, such as vice presidents and directors will have seen a rise of 8.3%. Mark Ellwood, country manager of Robert Walters Singapore attributes this to the need to “tighten control functions”. Similarly, demand for finance professionals with solid product knowledge has increased driving salaries upward. “After the crisis trades have advanced and control has had to be improved. Quality candidates for these positions are scarce and salaries have risen," Ellwood says.

Hong Kong

The need for stricter regulatory procedures in Hong Kong has pushed base salaries upward in compliance by up to 22.5% from 1999. Typically demanding academic, and analytical individuals, predominantly from the legal or accounting professions, this area remains the most candidate short. Corporate finance is another niche field, generally hiring MBA qualified finance professionals, with specific working backgrounds; base salaries in this area have risen approximately 19.6% over the last 12 months.

“MBAs, CFAs and CPAs may lift salary packages,” remarks Ellwood, “however, it has now become almost a prerequisite for many employers that new finance hires are IT proficient. Those with solid IT skills will find opportunities in abundance.” 

Recruitment in Hong Kong’s financial services sector is strong, with salaries overall having risen at an approximate average of 17.13% since 1999, compared to the overall average of 11.2% seen in Singapore. Back office settlements staff working within operations in major investment banks in Hong Kong will have seen base salaries rise by an approximate 16.7% whilst base salaries in risk management have risen by an average of 16.5%.

Kim Nowell is the manager of the banking department at Robert Walters, Hong Kong and can be contacted on [email protected]

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