Why 20-something bankers in Singapore need a foreign degree

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Banks in Singapore are ramping up their recruitment from local universities, encouraged by government efforts to increase the number of locals working in the finance sector.

But despite the overwhelming popularity and comparative affordability of domestic degrees, recruiters and hiring managers say that Singaporean candidates who’ve studied abroad – particularly at elite universities – increasingly stand out as the economy slows and the job market tightens.

Figures from the eFinancialCareers CV database support this by showing a big surge in young Singaporeans trying to get ahead of the competition with a degree from a top foreign institution.

We worked out the percentage of Singaporean candidates on our database who have attended at least one of 30 leading international universities. And we then split them into juniors (one-to-five years’ experience) and seniors (more than 10 years’ experience).

The results reveal that the younger group, who have only entered the workforce this decade, are much more likely to have an elite overseas degree than their older counterparts are.

The juniors registered higher attendance percentages in all but two of the colleges we looked at. For example, 3% of Singapore finance professionals in the one-to-five-year bracket went to the London School of Economics – but the figure slumps to 0.62% for those with 10 years’ experience or more.

Taken as a total, almost 11% of young candidates in Singapore have qualifications from the 30 elite universities, compared with just 4% among the senior group – almost a three-fold difference.

“Senior people started their careers in cushier times, before the financial crisis, when banks were doing their big build-outs in Singapore,” says a finance recruiter who asked not to be named. “It’s more competitive to get a job these days. If you have the money to attend one and get good grades, a top overseas degree does help. Banks are also now very focused on attracting young Singaporeans who are living abroad.”

Image credit: Mike Watson Images, Moodboard, Thinkstock

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