Singapore Market Update & Highlights for Q1 2019 | Kerry Consulting

    Singapore Market Updates

    Q1 2019

    Kerry Consulting


    Q1 2019 sees the financial services industry continuing its scramble to cope with a rapidly changing environment. Amid a slowing world economy (or not!), continued market volatility and possible trade wars, banks and financial institutions remain focused on innovation and transformation to navigate the “new normal”. Leaders continue to focus on combating shrinking margins, balancing digital threats and opportunities, as well as managing the push and pull between customer empowerment and risk management.

    Front Office

    Institutional Banking & Global Markets

    • Investment Banking seems to have picked up pace. Asian M&A in particular has seen increased activity, particularly in the SEA region
    • Banks continue to hire senior coverage / industry bankers with deep knowledge of specific industries, who are able to engage clients and cross sell products and services, at a strategic level
    • 2018 saw movements of a number of key project finance bankers within the industry, including into newly created roles. Structured finance and project / asset / infrastructure finance is expected to grow as ADB estimates infrastructure investment needs will total $1.7 trillion per year to support Asia’s growth momentum. Interest in renewable energy is expected to continue rising
    • Risk management remains important as banks continue to be careful with riskier, complex, structured deals. Memories of the GFC haven’t totally evaporated!
    • Global markets remain relatively flat with banks treading carefully, typically only looking at specific, replacement hires

    Investment Management

    • It has been a challenging year for value investing as it faces competition from passive investing and ETFs, hence, limited hiring in investment teams
    • ETFs and passive investing continue to grow
    • As China opens its market to investors, there is interest to hire investment professionals with experience covering China corporates, both in equities and credit
    • Fund Managers seem to be looking to increase their allocation in the healthcare sector, which is growing rapidly in Asia, particularly in North Asia
    • Multi-Asset solutions and structured product solutions are of interest in the current low return investment environment
    • Private Credit Investments, Distressed Debt and Special Situations continue to see some pick up in hiring
    • Family offices continue to be established, hence some interest in hiring investment professionals amongst others
    • As Wealth Management remains a high growth business for most banks, Fund Managers continue to tap into the retail and private banking / high net worth segment, through intermediary / channel sales
    • The emergence of Quantitative Investing has led to some increased hiring of Quant Portfolio Managers
    • Emerging areas: sustainable finance and impact investing, cryptocurrency as a new asset class

    Retail Banking & Wealth Management

    • Building best in class Customer Experiences (CX) and Omnichannel Banking (unifying digital and traditional channels), as well as Ecosystems and Partnerships development, continue to be top strategic priorities
    • Professionals with strong CX, digital transformation and innovation expertise, with or without prior financial services experience, continue to be in high demand
    • The race to develop Big Data, Artificial Intelligence and Advanced Predictive Analytics capabilities, has continued to drive high demand and spend for professionals with these skills.
    • Wealth management continues to be a growing business for most banks, with the priority banking segment having evergreen demand for relationship managers in both onshore and offshore markets

    Private Banking

    • There is continued interest in hiring senior private bankers with significant AUM, as well as experienced investment advisors and product advisors, who can work closely with private bankers to help generate revenue within a short time frame
    • Growth in discretionary portfolio management continues as the industry accelerates its move towards fee based advisory models, to cater to more sophisticated investors and wealth transitions to the next generation
    • Digital transformation has been key, with banks racing to develop the latest suites of client and relationship manager-facing, digital advisory and analytical tools

    Corporate Functions

    Finance and Operations

    • Banks are focused on preparing for revised reporting standards under MAS Notices 610 and 1003. Demand for candidates with Regulatory Reporting experience, specifically those with project implementation experience, will likely continue through 2019
    • Finance hiring remained flat in the last quarter of 2018 but we expect to see an increase in hiring in the second and third quarters of 2019, across most Finance disciplines
    • Demand in Operations also remained flat, with more emphasis on transformation and control roles to help banks automate, drive efficiencies and strengthen governance oversight
    • The adoption of Artificial Intelligence or Robotics Process Automation in Finance and Operations has increased, fueling demand for candidates with this expertise


    • Compliance hiring remains very active in 2019 and the majority of these hires are in the Financial Crime Compliance (FCC) space
    • Regulators’ focus on monitoring Anti-Money Laundering (AML) risk, continues to drive demand for AML professionals
    • Within Private Banking, hiring for candidates with KYC, Periodic Review and Onboarding experience, remains strong
    • We anticipate continued growth in demand for hybrid Compliance professionals with data analytics and programming skills, particularly in the areas of Technology Compliance and AML Transaction Monitoring
    • There is increased demand for Compliance professionals in the FinTech sector, due to increasing regulatory scrutiny of Cryptocurrency and Payment firms. MAS recently proposed a new Payment Services Bill to enhance the regulatory framework for payment services in Singapore
    • With the increased focus on governance in the Insurance sector, demand has increased across regulatory compliance and AML


    • Credit Risk hiring remains rather sector specific, including in Specialised Financing, Commodities, Financial Institutions and Consumer Banking
    • Risk modelling and analytics hiring continues to expand, with demand both at a group level to address Basel III, and at a business level, to better manage the corporate or retail credit portfolios
    • Hiring in market and operational risk has remained flat
    • Non-Bank Financial Institutions (e.g. Investment Management, Insurance) has seen increased hiring, to strengthen their Risk and Governance functions
    • With increased Digital adoption, Technology Risk has seen significant hiring, with a shortage of Cybersecurity and Digital Risk professionals. Overseas candidates have been an increasing source of supply
    • Financial Crime Compliance specialists particularly in Private Banking, continue to be in demand due to regulatory pressure. (e.g. KYC Client Due Diligence, Transaction Surveillance)


    • Auditors skilled in the use of technology and data analytics, to facilitate predictive sampling across large data sets, will continue to be in demand through 2019
    • As Digital Transformation continues to alter the way businesses are conducted, demand for auditors with experience in auditing the impact of New Technologies (e.g. Digitalisation, Robotic Process Automation, Cognitive Intelligence) on business processes, management and organisation, has increased
    • New General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will further fuel demand for auditors
    • Increased Outsourcing has driven the demand for more holistic views of Third-party risks and their management, resulting in more interest in candidates with experience in auditing third-party relationships
    • Regional regulators continue to tighten the guidelines around NBFIs. As a consequence, Insurers and Asset Managers continue to build out their audit and governance teams


    • The financial services legal market has been generally buoyant for 2018 across mid to senior level
    • At the mid-level, we have seen private practice candidates with around 4 – 6 years PQE with corporate commercial / capital markets or litigation backgrounds, being in demand for in-house legal counsel roles
    • For senior level regional APAC roles, there has been an increased focus on candidates with fluency in Mandarin due to greater emphasis on covering the Greater China markets. Candidates with the ability to read, write and review Mandarin contracts have a competitive advantage
    • There is an increase in private practice candidates moving from local law firms to offshore law firms given the 30 to 50% differential in base salaries
    • There is also a trend towards senior counsels taking on contract roles through platforms established by international law firms, as they enjoy the flexibility and the broad industry exposure. For expatriate candidates moving into the Singapore market, this is a good platform to break into the Singapore market

    Human Resources

    • Human resources technologists and tech-savvy human resources generalists, are in demand, as banks and financial institutions continue their digital transformation journey
    • Applying robotics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to human resources processes, certain work-streams can be digitalised and simplified, to achieve better productivity and employee experiences. As companies embrace these new ways of working and help their employees gain relevant expertise, the demand for human resources change and learning professionals is on the rise
    • Employees are seeking more holistic rewards – more than just fair salaries but overall work environment and benefits that promote mental and physical health and work-life balance. Rewards professionals with wellness program experience are increasingly in demand
    • “Employee Experience” (EX) and the “Human-Centricity” approach in delivering human resources solutions, continues to be a top priority for human resources, to ensure better employee experience, engagement and retention
    • Learning design and technology is in demand, as companies deliver learning solutions through online training and mobile-based learning. This empowers employees as to how learning is being received, including via on-demand, on-the-go, bite-sized and social learning. Companies that have recently implemented such initiatives, have seen better take up of and returns from, learning initiatives
    • Organisations are increasingly looking at human resources analytics to develop a data-driven talent strategy and this has resulted in newly created positions such as human resources analytics and workforce planning



    • Singapore continues to be one of the top Fintech hubs in the world as a result of numerous successful government initiatives including the running of the Singapore Fintech festival; the establishment of the Open Banking API playbook; and the provision of incentives and grants to attract organisations to establish innovation and technology hubs locally
    • HKMA had recently taken similar steps towards building a smart city. They launched the Open Banking API guidelines in July 2018; and accepted the first set of applicants for virtual banking licences in August 2018. Other countries in APAC have also followed suit, with Bank Negara launching its Open Banking API guidelines, in September 2018
    • Such initiatives are designed to increase competition in banking and reduce barriers to entry. Traditional banks are also relooking at their business models – an example is Standard Chartered Bank’s virtual bank in Hong Kong, which runs entirely independently from Standard Chartered Bank, and is aimed at attracting a new generation of consumers
    • Digital leaders need to be able to build mutually beneficial partnerships and meaningful ecosystems, to drive more holistic and better customer experiences

    Technology Leadership

    • Technology has rapidly moved from being an essentially back office support function into being THE cornerstone of organisations. Technology leaders who demonstrate strong track records in strategy; transformation and change, are intensely sought after, by CEOs who have come to realise that these changes are crucial for the future viability of the businesses
    • Structures in Technology functions are constantly being re-examined. Key decisions have to be made around existing reporting lines and workflows; centralisation versus decentralisation and outsourcing versus insourcing. As these decisions typically impact other divisions as well, there needs to be general consensus by senior management to achieve results
    • Consequently, good technology leaders are expected to be able to understand the business model, opportunities and threats; and be able to effectively communicate the value of these transformation programs, to the rest of the organisation. Strong influencing skills are critical to get buy in and support from all quarters of the business


    • Companies continue to invest heavily in ensuring that data is properly captured, stored and utilised. Some industries are just beginning their data journeys, and seek Chief Data Officers who can develop the overall data strategies, to capitalise on market opportunities and drive better operational efficiency
    • For companies which are more advanced in their data journey, CEOs are starting to focus on how artificial intelligence and machine learning can be used to better future proof their businesses. An example is the use of artificial intelligence in the development of “humanised” chatbots
    • As companies build out strong data infrastructures, the following types of candidates are in hot demand:
      • Data engineers – to layer on complexity in the systems
      • “Practical” data scientists – to understand the business domain and bring the data models into production. Practical experience is key
      • Data analytics translators – to act as a bridge between the business and data science, formulating use cases. This position is especially important when the organisation is in a data-driven decision environment. A strong translator can also enhance awareness internally
    • In addition to the financial services industry, we also anticipate strong demand for data talent from the FMCG, healthcare and retail sectors
    • Candidates are seeking organisations with complex and large data sets; robust data infrastructures which span the entire organisation; and management commitment to invest therein

    Digital and Innovation

    • As companies mature digitally, CEOs are gradually refining what “digital” actually means for their businesses. One size fits all truly does not apply here – organisations have to define a clear and unique digital roadmap including current and future state of their digital maturity; opportunities presented by emerging technologies; key success indicators; timelines and commitment levels
    • Business leaders are constantly seeking strong digital leaders who can provide alternative insights to how their businesses have traditionally be on run and who are charismatic change agents. Companies continue to invest in talent who are solid all-rounders, from strategy setting (understanding the business deeply) to delivery (building sustainable team structures and embedding new technologies). Such talent often comes with a blend of consulting and in-house experience
    • Entirely new divisions are being established including innovation labs, RPA / AI / IoT / ML teams, ecosystems and partnerships teams. For such roles, hiring organisations have a preference for candidates who are digital natives (usually working in more AGILE and creative environments). These divisions are sometimes set apart from the mothership (so there is less bureaucracy) and are often charged with being change agents for the rest of the organisation
    • While continuing to invest in such divisions, 2019 will see greater emphasis being placed on the actual translation of the innovation spend into POCs, prototypes and products


    • With the increased connectivity of systems internally and externally (for example with the use of APIs), and the rapid adoption of digital channels, data privacy and information security become even more essential for organisations. Companies have invested heavily in both infrastructure and applications in the security and risk functions
    • Organisations seek CISOs and security architects, to develop more holistic approaches to information security (looking at how systems are internally and externally connected, and analysing the implications of breaches of one system on the others)
    • Given that many of the applications and systems are customised third-party solutions, these same vendors have also provided ancillary security consulting services. Good CISOs are able to blend the use of vendors and in-house security personnel, to provide sufficient coverage
    • We continue to observe more investments into more pro-active approaches including the use of data analytics to improve the accuracy and efficiency of threat detection, attack analysis and prevention

    Infrastructure and Cloud

    • With the introduction of emerging infrastructure solutions, including cloud technology, organisations have to strike a balance between the agility they can offer and the associated risk. Organisations are on a constant lookout for visionary infrastructure talent
    • Organisations considering the introduction of cloud technology, have to consider the pros and cons of public and private clouds. Regardless of the strategy they choose, they need cloud engineers and cloud architects to develop a holistic strategy and integration architecture. These cloud specialists are in hot demand and short supply, with talent usually based outside of Singapore
    • Organisations have also begun to focus on workspace technology, with the view that better connectivity drives greater efficiency and increased employee satisfaction. For such roles, candidates with strong vendor experience are preferred

    PMO and Project Management

    • Program managers are in demand – projects are now spread across functions; business and geographies, and involve broad groups of stakeholders. Given the speed of the technological evolution, program and project management methodologies are increasingly agile, to ensure that the organisations are keeping pace with their competition
    • Organisations are hungry for change managers and business analysts who can strategise how technology can be used in innovative ways to improve both top and bottom lines. They are expected to possess the ability to influence, drive and eventually implement, change. Functional expertise is key, as they are expected to know what their business stakeholders require and translate that effectively into technical requirements and eventual technology rollouts. Candidates from external consulting firms, with strong implementation experience, are in demand for these roles

    Application and Software Development

    • Developers who are skilled in newly emerging coding languages, are highly sought after. Coding languages and methodologies have evolved rapidly – applications and software are now expected to be more flexible, allowing for fuss-free modifications, layering and delayering. In addition, organisations are enhancing their partnerships with one another and these partnerships often take a digital form, requiring applications to communicate across organisations
    • Developers are expected to understand the intricacies associated with the increased connectivity of applications, in particular APIs. Connections in applications across unrelated organisations are far more complicated, and requires deep consideration at the development stages, in order to provide the agility needed, as the partnerships deepen



    FMCG / Consumer HealthCare

    Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) companies continue to invest in product innovation for diverse markets to broaden their product mix. With Digital being a key and necessary growth pillar to remain competitive, Companies are also leveraging on digital data across new channels like mobile, to gain insights into consumer behavior.

    Global Firms are also shifting decision-making to local markets to compete with entrepreneurial local brands for market share. As a result, Companies are de-layering their organisation structures to redistribute resources and to increase efficiency, to achieve speed to market. As profit margin pressure persists in the Consumer Sector, particularly in Personal Care and Consumer Healthcare, companies are drastically restructuring their business models to achieve greater focus on product offerings and reduce operating expenses.

    Concurrently, Companies are channelling more investment into technology advancement across the value chain. Beyond increasing spend focusing on selling and engaging with consumers in an Omni-channel platform, leveraging on data analytics has started to be of interest to Companies. Key account management experience with eRetailers and Digital marketing across Growth Marketing and Content continue to be a huge focus of hire as Companies accelerate in their endeavors to build digital capabilities. We also see Consumer companies growing in appetite to hire business intelligence candidates with deep expertise in digital data.

    In this era of constant change and disruption, candidates who are able to demonstrate positive mindsets, learning agility and resilience are in high demand. At senior levels, companies are increasingly looking for professionals with international portfolios, who are geographically mobile, especially in emerging markets.


    It’s an exciting time in the retail sector across Asia as the landscape continues to transform. Omni Channel experience is a big must to win in the market, to ensure that they are optimising the product mix offering online and offline, providing seamless customer service and ensuring that they are providing convenient shopping solutions to the consumers. Interestingly, a lot of brands are still trying to find their way on this journey.

    Digital, AI, analytics usage of big data, is here to stay. Brands with the help of technology know their customers better, improve their customer’s journey as they shop (both online and offline) with them and also improve their future engagement with current customers. We also look to China for the new retail trends, ranging from payment services to ecommerce.

    Talent in ecommerce, analytics, and digital continues to be highly sought after. At the same time, there remains lots of interest in hiring for Store Design, Visual Merchandising, Retail Operations and also niche Marketing roles such as Insights and CRM.

    Hospitality & Real Estate


    Integrated technology solutions will continue to be the game changer in the hospitality sector. From Artificial Intelligence to Mobile Integration to Virtual and Augmented Reality, hoteliers are striving to provide guests with a seamless, digitalised experience. Hoteliers are integrating their revenue management, sales and marketing functions into one revenue generating umbrella with the ultimate objective being to acquire, engage and retain guests. Here, we observed a demand for transformational, collaborative leaders who can integrate digital capabilities and transform traditional business models, revenue and data specialists who can leverage predictive analytics to maximise business decisions, and digital marketers who can understand and manage the influence of social media.

    With hospitality companies increasingly moving towards an asset-light approach to focus on their core strengths and maximise efficiencies, this has led to a demand for asset managers who can represent the interests of hotel owners and help them maximise value. Whilst technical competence remains essential for selection, soft skills such as the ability to adopt a leadership mentality, provide creative solutions and make real-time operational decisions are differentiators in the hiring process.

    Real Estate

    According to the 2019 Emerging Trends in Real Estate Asia Pacific report, published jointly by Urban Land Institute and PwC, Singapore is the No. 2 real estate investment market in the Asia-Pacific. Commercial real estate remains the top asset class for investors and there has been an increased interest in hotel development and investment sales, driven by optimism in the hospitality sector and cautious outlook for residential development.

    New business models, enhanced use of technology and evolving tenant and investor expectations will continue to redefine the commercial real estate industry. New co-working companies have reimagined the physical workspace and strive to position themselves as a service hub with a nimble business model. Commercial real estate companies have to adapt to the changing usage pattern of built space in order to attract customers, talent and investment. Investment managers who are able to operationalise capital investment strategies and technology specialists who are able to weave advanced technologies into the tenant life cycle, are in high demand.

    Health & Life Science (HLS)

    The life sciences sector will continue to see a strategic rise of the digital mindset and further adoption of transformative technologies.

    Within Pharma specifically, M&A will lead to strategic transactions that enhance a company’s core. External innovation will impose upon existing cultures and propel a change towards inking creative partnerships with a new generation of startups and tech giants, thus disrupting the status quo and challenging pharma’s legacy culture.

    The medtech industry’s speed of evolution is unsurpassed in the history of life sciences. Medical device manufacturers are experiencing disruption from small companies and startups entering the market. Despite uncertainty and challenges, the industry continues to experience tremendous growth and an abundance of opportunities for further technological innovation.

    Tech giants like Amazon and Google, continue to encroach upon both the pharma and medtech worlds. Their diversification into health care and investment in startups, will make them eventual Masters of Data. Data and digitisation will be the force behind new revenue models and crucial to delivering exceptional patient experience, including the design of informational and product value chains. While digitization brings in ample opportunities, it also brings forth vulnerabilities in cybersecurity risks, especially where interdependency and collaboration are scaling.

    Stakeholders should create coherent and meaningful experiences through the entire chain of patient interactions across all phases – from R&D and product launch to commercialization. The world of tech, pharma and medtech will continue to merge.

    Asia-Pacific, is experiencing rapid growth in the Medical Technology and Pharmaceutical sectors, due to an aging population, rising affluence and greater access to healthcare. Singapore, in particular, continues to be at the forefront of medical technology and pharmaceutical manufacturing, thanks to the availability of a skilled work force, an innovative ecosystem that promotes development of new technologies such as 3D printing, robotics, industrial Internet-of-Things (IoT), Internet-of-Medical-Things (IoMT) and strong Intellectual Property protection in a business-friendly environment.

    Many organisations are establishing regional footprints in APAC, especially in Singapore, by setting up regional distribution centers to be closer to customers and importantly reduce lead times. Supply chain transformation will create a more robust supply chain and value added service for end customers. Increasingly, organisations are leveraging on blockchain technology to enhance their procurement and supply chain management activities for the region.

    Whilst the industry’s commitment to digital transformation is increasing, few organisations are digitally mature. We can expect to see more of transformative technologies including Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet-of-Medical-Things (IoMT), Software-as-a-Medical-Device (SaMD), Blockchain, DIY diagnostics etc. More than three-quarters of companies agree that their organisations need new leaders to succeed in the digital age. Currently, only 20 percent of companies feel they have matured in their journey to becoming a digital enterprise.

    This year, biopharma companies are likely to accelerate recruitment of talent from outside of the life sciences sector, for their digital expertise. The sector is accelerating its investment in digital-related roles, life science-specific technology and specialized engineering areas. Skilled professionals particularly in areas of research and development, continue to be in high demand and the industry is future proofing itself through its emphasis on talent pipelining through education and training initiatives, as well as strategic collaboration between the public and private sectors.

    Commodities, Chemicals, Oil & Gas (CCOG)


    Oil’s outlook in 2019 is unclear, as ever. While OPEC, along with allied producers including Russia, made an effort to cut production in January 2019, the slower growth expected around the world, and the increase in supply of US shale oil, is expected to suppress prices and Brent is forecast to average around $60-$65/barrel for the next 2 years. US shale oil production has continued to rise and for the first time since the Suez crisis, the US has become the biggest exporter of oil to the UK.

    This volatility is further heightened by the continued trade tension between the US and China and economic challenges in Europe. As IMO 2020 continued to be the focus, many traditional oil companies are turning to sustainable and renewable energy including LNG. Companies remain cost conscious and automation may help to reduce costs.

    Within the region, hiring for oil professionals is mainly due to natural attrition rather than actual expansion plans. Functions that remain in demand include short term trading analytics, trade and structured finance, risk and trade support.

    Coal, Gas and Power

    Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) – While LNG volumes delivered in Dec 2018 topped 20.25 million tonnes to the top 3 consumers of Japan, China and South Korea, the spot price of LNG in Asia has completely missed its usual winter peak, with much of the blame being laid at the door of milder-than-usual temperatures trimming demand. It is also more likely that excess supply is playing a greater role than demand, as there is expected oversupply on the back of a raft of new projects, mainly in Australia and the United States.

    The spot price for cargoes delivered to Asia LNG-AS was US$8.50 per million British thermal units (mmBtu) in the week ended Jan 11. It has been trending down since a minor early winter peak of US$10.90 per mmBtu in the week to Nov 2018, and is well below the summer-high of US$11.60, reached in the week to June 2018. The spot price is usually for deliveries of around four to eight weeks in advance, so the current price reflects cargoes that will arrive in February 2019.

    While the longer-term outlook for LNG demand growth appears to be optimistic, the shorter term spot market will struggle to absorb the excess supply coming on from projects in 2018. Singapore continues to be the LNG trading location of choice in Asia.

    Coal dominates power generation in the region. A 2018 report by CoalSwarm shows that five of ASEAN’s 10 member states – Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Cambodia – are among the world’s top 20 investors in new coal capacity. The investment environment for renewables is unnecessarily high-risk because ASEAN governments’ work on supporting renewables and integrating them into the grid, is insufficient. As a result, record low prices seen elsewhere around the world have yet to reach Southeast Asian markets.

    Since 2009, commercial-scale solar power has dropped approximately 86 per cent in price and wind has dropped 65 per cent, making both competitive with traditional generation sources in many places. The biggest price falls have happened since 2016 – driven downward by China’s overcapacity in solar production, competitive auctions for new projects, and a shift in financing and regulatory models. Bloomberg New Energy Finance forecasts additional price cuts of 34 per cent in 2018 and more in 2019, as China’s domestic demand slows and oversupply floods the global market.

    We expect the demand for talent in business development, origination, corporate finance and shipping operations to continue to hold steady.

    Metals and Mining

    An economic slowdown in China, which consumes half of the world’s commodities, is the single biggest fear for the mining & metals sector this year, with many highlighting that as the key headwind. It is closely followed by trade tensions, which have ramped up in recent months.

    The biggest impact of trade tensions this year will be on speculative pressure on commodity prices, rather than any erosion of underlying demand for the hard commodities. The current cycle should continue to be demand-driven, with miners likely to continue to focus on productivity gains to deliver a measured supply-side response to demand.

    2018 was a year of getting leaner. Rio Tinto offloaded business, including Europe’s biggest aluminium smelter and the giant Grasberg copper mine in Indonesia, while BHP Group sold its US shale business for US$10.5 billion, recouping some of the tens of billions it spent on the assets. The two biggest miners are returning the proceeds of these sales to shareholders, along with dividends from their continuing operations. Glencore, the most acquisitive of the major miners, has been relatively quiet on the deal front, with its CEO, Ivan Glasenberg, seeing little to buy, while it is also subject to a US Department of Justice probe.

    Anglo American is the only big mining company to have green-lighted a major new copper mine in 2018, having given the go-ahead for the US$5 billion Quellaveco copper project in Peru, together with an upsizing of Mitsubishi’s equity stake in the project to further share development and construction risk. We expect hiring to continue across most functions of metals and mining across Asia.

    Agriculture and Food Production

    Soybeans received a boost from signs of improving trade relations between the US and China, and that theme should continue to dominate trading this year. The oilseed price rallied late last year after a meeting between US and Chinese leaders resulted in China resuming some imports of American beans.

    US farmers are hopeful the two nations will reach an accord before the end of a 90-day truce. The key question for trading desks remains whether China, the top US soybean buyer, will agree to reduce tariffs on US agricultural products. Brazil’s coming harvest is also a major factor: farmers there are looking at yet another bumper year and that rush of supply would further suppress US prices, especially if China stays closed.

    Integrated food producers with significant downstream and manufacturing capabilities beyond trading continue to battle increased competition to defend market share. Those who have demonstrated efficiencies in supply chain and production through rationalisation efforts have seen those efforts pay off. Demand for finance talent with corporate development and working capital management capabilities, will continue, as players seek to maximise their return on investments and increase productivity.

    Speciality Chemicals

    The chemical industry had been experiencing consolidation, decreasing margins due to product commoditization, as well as increased competition in developing countries. At the same time, population and income growth and urbanisation, is resulting in greater demand for food as well as various chemical products.

    The Chemical sector has been slower in digitalizing but is now beginning to build momentum. Technology is helping chemical companies in a range of areas such as capturing critical data to lower costs, scheduling preventative maintenance to minimize downtime, and facilitating accurate inventory planning to prevent stock outs. It is also helping companies to better predict customer needs and respond more quickly to customer requests, while improving customer experience. Companies are also exploring the provision of digital analytics services.

    2019 will likely see market growth in the Chemicals industry after years of stagnation. Candidates with the flexibility and skills to contribute in this ever changing landscape, will be in high demand, as companies look to gain market share in an open and innovative market place.


    The global semiconductor industry grew rapidly in 2018, however, the outlook for 2019 is less encouraging.

    Chipmakers’ overall sales will continue to grow, driven by sensors / MEMS, microprocessors and optoelectronics.

    With the introduction of EUV lithography and some advanced fabrication techniques within the manufacturing segment, driving demand in raw materials especially wafers, etch gases, precursors, photoresists and CMP consumables are driving a positive growth outlook. Although a potential slowdown of the memory market in 2019 is a concern, the overall outlook for the semiconductor market remains solid due to broad-based growth trends in data centers, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (MI), automotive and industrial segments. With these in mind, the hiring outlook within the Semiconductor industry still remains positive. We’re seeing that expectations of companies are getting higher with a stronger demand in specific and niche skill sets for engineering positions and for leadership roles.

    Food & Nutrition (F&N)

    Flavour and Food Ingredients Industry

    We have seen the major flavor industry players develop beyond their roots to identify around the more holistic concept of “taste” rather than mere “flavor”. Examples include Givaudan’s acquisition of natural extracts supplier Naturex and IFF acquiring Frutarom. Firmenich’s launch of its Natural and Clean Label platform also shows the sector’s focus on clean label extracts, aimed at creating “great tasting, natural and traceable food and beverage experiences.”

    Health-conscious, busy consumers today are increasingly seeking quick plant-based options with vegetables replacing their previous meat-focused diets. This has resulted in manufacturers and ingredient suppliers being under increasing pressure to deliver ready meals that meet consumers growing interest in healthy, sustainable and ethics driven plant-derived ingredients and products. There is also a greater focus on positive nutrition such as added protein and superfoods, although this trend could be slightly subdued in an uncertain 2019 economy due to its higher product cost. Satisfying the demands of increasingly adventurous consumers will likely be the key driver of product development going forward.

    Animal Nutrition Industry

    When looking at the global picture for animal nutrition, some of the same trends as in human nutrition can be noticed. Much like human nutrition, animal nutrition customers are becoming even more health conscious and are increasingly looking for organic ingredients as well as antibiotic-free and non-GMO products.

    The push for advanced technologies are also having an impact in the industry, with companies developing solutions to monitor, measure and manage animals, by creating online platforms for data-driven agriculture. For example with Pig facial recognition technology, farmers will be able to identify individual swine for customised feed, care and treatment plans, which will greatly help in driving a higher pigs per sow per year (PSY) and also lower death rates of piglets. Improving animal welfare has also been an increasingly important topic in the industry, with companies combining nutrition and technological innovation to elevate sustainability and welfare in animal production

    African swine fever (ASF), trade uncertainties and China’s economic slowdown, will likely have a significant impact on the business performance of Animal Nutrition companies in 2019.


    Southeast Asia remains a region with strong potential where the demand for infrastructure is mainly driven by increases in the urban population. Governments continue investing in essential projects for transportation, energy and water. Singapore is a good example with public sector works accounting for 60% of the construction market. Megaprojects include Changi Airport’s Terminal 5, DTSS Phase 2, the North-South Corridor and Rail-related developments. Global companies contracted on these projects see their pipeline of work reinforced although the market remains highly competitive with the growth of local mid-size firms.

    The hiring outlook for Engineering recruitment remains positive. We expect continued hiring in particular for complex infrastructure developments such as airports, data centers and healthcare facilities, across the region. Employers are particularly interested in candidates who have niche specialisms. Although mergers and acquisitions between engineering multinationals have produced some retrenchments, small and mid-size companies continue to grow and expand their portfolio of projects overseas. As some consultancies and contractors are adapting their model to penetrate markets more efficiently, they expect candidates not only to possess strong technical knowledge but also commercial acumen and the ability to be client-facing.


    Human Resources

    Human resources Technologists and Tech-savvy human resources professionals are in demand as organisations continue their digital transformation journey. Applying robotics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) into human resources processes, certain work-streams can be digitalised and simplified to achieve better productivity and employee experiences. As companies embrace these new ways of working and help their employees gain relevant expertise, the demand for human resources change and learning professionals is on the rise to ensure better adoption of digital transformation ensuring employees are digitally-upskilled or re-skilled and not left behind.

    Employees are seeking more holistic rewards – more than just fair salaries but overall work environment and benefits, that promote mental and physical health, work-life balance and innovative workplace culture. Rewards professionals with wellness program experience are increasingly in demand.

    “Employee Experience” (EX) and the “Human-Centricity” approach in delivering human resources solutions, continues to be a top priority for human resources to ensure better employee experience, engagement and retention. Human resources professionals continue to incorporate EX initiatives in their human resources designs, framework and interventions.

    Learning design and technology is in demand as companies deliver learning solutions through online training and mobile-based learning. This empowers employees to choose their learning channel, including “on-demand”, “on-the-go”, “bite-sized” and “social” learning. Companies that have recently implemented such initiatives have seen better take up rates.

    Organisations are increasingly looking at human resources analytics to develop a data-driven talent strategy and this has resulted in newly created positions such as human resources analytics and workforce planning.

    There is also a trend towards HR leaders taking on crucial roles in business transformation projects, which include digital transformation, agile working and business performance improvements. Some have also stepped into COO roles, which reflect the fact that the people agenda is critical to bringing their organisations into the digital era.

    There is growing demand for CHROs who have demonstrated a deep understanding of the business drivers.

    Finance & Accounting

    The hiring outlook for Finance recruitment within Commerce & Industry remains positive.

    The role of the CFO is being redefined due to changes in technology and management practices. CFOs and their teams are increasingly expected to partner business leaders in supporting complex decisions. To keep pace with these expectations, CFOs have to adopt an agile operating model that allows easy deployment of resources and develop Finance capabilities for the digital age.

    Technical expertise in data modelling and analytics continue to be in demand as Finance professionals strive to leverage data-driven insights to support business strategies and operational decision making. Within the Consumer, Retail and Hospitality sectors, Finance Business Partners with expertise in revenue, client and competitor analytics are highly sought after, particularly those who have deployed proactive revenue management strategies. With the decline in M&A activities across asset intensive sectors such as Oil & Gas and Metals & Mining industries, there has been increased demand for Strategy and Finance Business Partners with track records in extracting productivity gains from existing assets.

    Whilst technical skills could help open doors, there is increased emphasis on Finance professionals who can operate effectively in cross-functional teams, evaluate data insights and develop action plans to improve the financial health of the organisation.

    Supply Chain & Procurement

    The ongoing transformation and expansion of Singapore’s Procurement & Supply Chain (P&SC) functions continues to shape the recruitment market. P&SC is seen as a critical, strategic and commercial partner to the organisation rather than just a tactical function. Most organisations are establishing regional footprints in APAC, especially Singapore, by setting up regional distribution centers closer to customers, and reduce cost and lead times. Centralized teams are being established in Singapore, mainly because of the strong infrastructure and availability of specialised talent.

    P&SC is looking to further digitize which is leading to an increased centralization of functions and also automation which provides avenue to achieve cost reduction. Hot topics include automation of procurement processes by leveraging on blockchain technology, the role of big data and analytics in understanding spending patterns and cost saving opportunities, Industry 4.0 and also recognizing possible areas of disruption and buying trends of the future. However, some MNCs have moved away from having APAC regional offices to developing Supply Chain & Procurement in-country strategies. Increasing numbers of e-commerce startups in Singapore is also a driver of demand.

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