Throughout 2023, Malaysia’s banking and financial services sector grappled with concerns about a looming recession. Some companies adopted a more frugal approach, curbing their spending and exercising more caution when it came to hiring. Despite this, demand for talent persisted in specific segments of the industry.
“The bulk of hiring we’ve seen in 2023 has been led by digitalisation,” states KimYie Lee, a Senior Manager who specialises in front and back office roles at Robert Walters Malaysia’s Banking & Financial Services desk. “These efforts stem from an industry-wide effort to automate processes and re-engineer digital systems and tools. It’s likely that this will continue to shape hiring activities in 2024.”
A parallel trend can be seen in the middle office, according to Doreen Ooi, a Manager at Robert Walters Malaysia who specialises in risk, audit and compliance roles for the sector. “Companies have been prudent with their expenditure all year, but niche and technical skillsets remained in demand,” she says.
Read on for KimYie and Doreen’s expectations of the labour market and hiring trends for Malaysia’s Banking & Financial Services professionals in 2024.
Front and back office employees have once again resumed their morning commutes, signalling a return to in-office work arrangements within the industry. KimYie says that this trend is picking up speed, and it may not be long before most organisations reinstate the traditional five-day work week in the office for good. In 2024, she also expects that companies will keep prioritising roles with digital skillsets, naming process improvement managers and product managers as two examples.
The picture looks a little different for the risk, audit and compliance functions. “There is still a strong demand for remote and flexible work arrangements,” shares Doreen. “Candidates have been cautious about moving jobs due to fears of an economic downturn. In addition to that, companies have been aggressive with their counteroffers to retain top talent, so we might see a tighter talent pool in 2024.
Malaysia’s new digital banks have to roll out their products and services by a tight deadline. These entities will need to fill many roles as they work towards go-live, contributing to a broader demand for digital roles within the financial services sector.
Skillsets such as digital product management, digital re-engineering, project management, process improvement, and Agile methodology are in high demand.
Within this space, partnerships and sales experts, digital products and re-engineering professionals, and relationship managers will be in high demand.
Meanwhile, the demand for risk managers, internal auditors and compliance professionals shows no signs of waning as companies seek to enact stronger governance over their business conduct.
The governance function, in particular, will see an increase in demand for digitalisation, so candidates with analytical capabilities and exposure to systems and technical platforms will be highly regarded. There will also be more demand for candidates with experience in the ESG and sustainability risk space. Roles in demand in these areas revolve around regulatory compliance and risk modelling and analytics.
Overall, Doreen says that candidates who have strong communication and interpersonal skills are highly valuable in the middle office. This is also the case for candidates who can serve as effective business advisors and partners.
KimYie explains that front and back office candidates seek out roles where they can make a difference, such as work that contributes to improving socioeconomic conditions for the underserved. They are often drawn to companies that let them expand their [EC1] skillsets and knowledge through interesting projects and opportunities.
“Companies should aim to create a holistic and compelling compensation benefits package[EC2] for their talent. Provide clear career growth trajectories, and make sure that managers communicate regularly and openly with their teams,” she advises. “Candidates today like it when companies embrace sustainability and equity, diversity and inclusion, so it also helps when companies make this clear in their hiring activities and employer branding.”
To retain and attract talent, companies should offer competitive salaries, attractive benefits, clear career paths, open communication, and a commitment to sustainability and diversity.
Candidates across all functions now also prioritise job stability and security, and this is especially so for those who have undergone layoffs. “The reputation of the company has become an important point of consideration. Candidates want to know if the company is stable and if they will have job security, so this is an important point to address in the hiring process,” Doreen highlights.
She adds, “Besides offering flexible work arrangements and competitive packages, companies can find more success with attracting the right talent by shortening the hiring process and creating a positive candidate experience.”
Within the front and back office, salaries are expected to increase by 20 – 25% for job movers. Some candidates who have been paid above industry standards may be open to moving laterally without any salary increments.
Salaries for job movers in risk, audit and compliance roles are expected to rise by the usual rates of about 20%.
Request access to our 2024 Salary Survey to benchmark salaries and to find out more about key hiring trends in the Banking & Financial Services industry in Malaysia.
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Banking & Financial Services, Malaysia
With 12 years' recruitment experience, Senior Manager, Kim-Yie, specialises in front and back office functions and manages a team of specialist recruiters covering those aspects of financial services.
Banking & Financial Services, Malaysia
Bringing 10 years of recruitment experience, Doreen is a manager with expertise in recruiting talent in Risk Management, Internal Audit, and Compliance within the financial services industry.
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