Singapore banking industry flourishes amid regional growth and BRI projects

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As Singapore banks have become essential to regional growth as well as financing projects for China’s Belt and Road Initiative, it has also become apparent that banking—both institutional and corporate—is doing very well in the country. This is according to a recent report from recruitment consultant Hays Singapore.

Singaporean banks are now offering project and export finance, loan syndication, trade and cash management solutions and financial market products to markets in China and the South East Asian region. 

According to Citi’s global subsidiaries group’s head for Asia Pacific, Munir Nanji,  Citi has seen solid growth in its corporate investment banking business in the region, being 18 percent higher this year.

Doing even better is Citi’s “China to Asean corridor”, whose revenue is up by 66 percent, because of tech and e-commerce companies investing into Asean, as well as growth due to infrastructure expansion.

Citi, noting the foreign direct investment (FDI) of China into Asean going from US$6.5 billion in 2015 to more than US$9 billion in 2016, has also expanded its China desk’s global network. There are currently 10 people in Citi’s two China desks in Singapore, since Citi added a second team in the Lion City in January.

Citi started its first desk in Singapore eight years ago. It serves clients from China who are investing in Singapore. The second desk aids clients from China who use Singapore as the portal to other Asean countries.

HSBC Singapore is also offering services to aid clients to catch opportunities stemming from the infrastructure boom in South East Asia as well as China’s BRI.  The HSBC’s head of infrastructure and real estate group (Asia-Pacific), Jim Cameron says, “To further strengthen depth in this area, we announced a regional head of BRI in July and have added head count across our commercial and global banking businesses in Singapore,” he said.

Singapore has also seen an increase in seasoned bankers who assist clients in going through operations and regulations in new markets. They command a good salary for these positions as well.

“Given that Singapore arranges and structures two-thirds of Southeast Asia’s infrastructure projects, we seek people that understand the various regulatory frameworks under which these projects will be mandated, have established relationships with the relevant country stakeholders and investment agencies, and can bring a deep and innovative mind-set to structuring deals,” according to Mr Cameron. “Clearly, the skills, experience and attitudes that we require are highly sought after and we respond to market conditions in terms of how we remunerate.”

Mr Nanji said, “There are a number of skills that we look for when hiring a candidate for this role – agility; diversity; tenacity; experience in the region, knowledge of the flow-based products including FX, transaction banking and loans, good negotiation skills, and ability to speak two or more languages.”

In the meantime, the local banks of Singapore are also stepping up cross-border financing solutions offerings. For example, United Overseas Bank (UOB) announced a partnership with Shanghai Pudong Development Bank (SPD Bank) to assist businesses take opportunities that have arisen from the BRI.

Since 2013 there has been more than US$5 trillion in trade because of the BRI. UOB’s head of group wholesale banking, Frederick Chin said,  “As more companies in the region internationalize their business, they require comprehensive financial support to facilitate their cross-border operations, trade and investments.”

UOB will offer SPD Bank’s clients advisory services in terms of investment incentives, local regulations, tax, company incorporation and legal matters, as well as link them up with possible foreign investors.

In the last seven years UOB has places FDI advisory units in nice Asian markets in order for their clients to handle their cross-border operations and overseas businesses effectively.

Mr. Chin says, “Asean’s growth prospects, underpinned by its vast and growing consumer market and substantial intra-regional trade and investment flows, have also attracted many Chinese companies.”

The bank’s FDI advisory units have expanded by 50 percent since 2013.