Navigating the Changing Financial Industry in Asia

By Kristen Lynas Aug 1, 2013

The global finance and investment industry is in a state of flux. As layoffs and regulation issues hamper the sector in Europe and the U.S., Asia is becoming an increasingly attractive choice for many finance professionals happy to relocate for existing employers or the prospect of new work.

In the next three years, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers, total wealth in the Asia-Pacific region is forecast to be $116.8 trillion, surpassing that of Europe. With the industry undergoing a dramatic shift from West to East, competition for finance jobs in Asia will get stiffer, favoring professionals who already understand Asian markets.

At the same time, where the financial services industry remains strong within Asia, dynamic sector demands are emerging to create a rapidly changing environment. For example, Singapore is seeing an increase in demand for wealth management, risk management and compliance, but a fall in demand for equity sales and structured product advice. True to global market trends, the hardest-hit sector of the finance industry in Singapore remains investment banking.

This new complexity governing Asian financial markets is causing a change in the executive skills needed to succeed in such an environment. Equally, increased competition for jobs means aspiring executives in the region are faced with a new pressure to set themselves ahead of the curve if they are to secure, or keep, their place in this increasingly competitive job market.

To succeed in the unpredictable landscape, executives must develop a new set of skills: they must re-tool.

Re-tooling to Succeed

Finance can be a siloed industry. Someone working in equity sales may never have the opportunity to understand what people in the credit risk department of a bank do; likewise, someone who trades bonds might not have any idea how the foreign exchange department works.

In today’s fast-evolving financial sector, a broader knowledge base and macro view to support greater strategic vision is essential, especially for those executives taking a leadership position within the finance industry. There is, therefore, an opportunity—especially within today’s economic climate—to foster and encourage greater cross-sector understanding among financial professionals.

Beyond increasing cross-sector knowledge and an appreciation of its effective application, fine-tuning core leadership skills is also a key area in which executives can gain an edge, from learning to assess and challenge the status quo and empower employees, to thinking more strategically, to enhancing client relationship skills.

Managing Uncertainty

In such a volatile environment, it is not just employees who need to get ahead. Companies are also feeling the pressure more than ever to outshine competition in a crowded marketplace.

As such, more and more financial services companies are investing in education to attract and retain the best talent. As financial instruments and the regulatory environment become more complex, companies understand the need for educated employees who can accurately price and assess the risk of the securities they are working with. Engaging experienced financial industry professionals in re-tooling not only helps them advance personally, it helps secure the future of their organizations.

As well as investing in formal education, there is an opportunity for companies to encourage and foster the exchange of knowledge between their own foreign and local talent, creating truly global mindsets and keeping employees empowered and loyal.

Kristen Lynas is the director of executive degree programs for the graduate business school INSEAD, which offers executive education programs that address Asian markets.

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