Q&A: Hong Kong / Singapore Sales And Trading Recruitment

Hey guys, I've been part of the WSO community for quite some time now, and I realized that there weren't a lot of topics about recruiting in Asia (Hong Kong and Singapore). Thought that I'd do a Q&A to help out candidates that wanted to work in Asia. A bit of background on myself: * Did a sales and trading summer internship at a BB in Singapore. * Recruited again in 2020, secured a graduate offer at a BB in Hong Kong. I've been through different interview processes as well, so feel free to ask about the recruitment processes of different banks. Hopefully this thread would be helpful for those of you that wanted to work in Asia. EDIT: There's a duplicate thread running here: Ask Me Anything: Hong Kong / Singapore Sales And Trading Recruitment

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Comments (17)

Dec 3, 2019 - 2:48pm

How did you get the position. Were you sold on Asia on it being a area of growth to help further your career? Did you choose it on your own? What was the recruitment process like? After work activities? What were your hours like? Where did you stay and what was housing like, was it provided for you or did you have to get it yourself? What was it like waking up and going home over there?

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  • Analyst 1 in S&T - FI
Dec 3, 2019 - 8:33pm

Thanks for the questions! I'll try my best to answer them.

hunt4dollas:

How did you get the position.

Applied normally from the online application portal. I do want to emphasize that the recruitment process in Asia is not as dependent on networking as it is in the US or EMEA. It is entirely possible to get a summer internship without networking with anyone- although of course, joining insight programs/days of banks are a great way to get your foot in the door. Plus, I do want to highlight that the culture of cold calling or asking people out for coffee isn't the norm here.

hunt4dollas:

Were you sold on Asia on it being a area of growth to help further your career? Did you choose it on your own?

Well, I'm Asian myself, so I knew I wanted to stay in Asia in the long run- and as you mentioned, obviously Asia being an area of growth is a huge plus. And yes, I chose it on my own, but a small part it is because I heard that it's almost virtually impossible from someone outside the US/EMEA region to get an internship in the region.

hunt4dollas:

What was the recruitment process like? After work activities? What were your hours like? Where did you stay and what was housing like, was it provided for you or did you have to get it yourself? What was it like waking up and going home over there?

The recruitment process in different banks are pretty similar. Very generally speaking, it's video > phone > final. The format and number of interviewers in each round may be different- for instance, a bank's video interview process has a "job simulator" part attached to it. Another bank has an essay to be written on various topics, etc. Some banks have superdays (group interviews, group exercises, trading games, etc), some banks only have final round interviews.

hunt4dollas:

After work activities? What were your hours like?

After work activities were the usual- casual drinks with colleagues, dinner with fellow interns. I do want to note that people in Singapore (and perhaps Hong Kong as well) are more family-oriented than not, so the drinking culture is perhaps not as extreme... you probably won't see stories of interns getting drunk in front of MDs in Asia.

Compared to other banks, I think my hours were great. I worked from 7 to 7.30/8 p.m. There wasn't any face time needed since my colleagues were already out at 6.30/7 p.m., leaving only the guys that covered India (since they start late, perhaps at around 8-9 a.m.). This is all in SGT.

hunt4dollas:

Where did you stay and what was housing like, was it provided for you or did you have to get it yourself? What was it like waking up and going home over there?

Without getting into too much detail- I stayed in an accommodation provided by the bank.

Dec 3, 2019 - 4:35pm

Thanks for doing this. Hunt4dollas covered my questions, but I had 2 more:

  • Non-local language speakers are probably at a huge disadvantage, but is knowing just English enough to get by day to day (both professionally and socially).

  • What is the general acceptance/stance on western workers? I'm assuming it's not as insular as Japan comparatively speaking.

Quant (ˈkwänt) n: An expert, someone who knows more and more about less and less until they know everything about nothing.

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  • Analyst 1 in S&T - FI
Dec 3, 2019 - 8:49pm
BubbaBanker:

Thanks for doing this. Hunt4dollas covered my questions, but I had 2 more:
  • Non-local language speakers are probably at a huge disadvantage, but is knowing just English enough to get by day to day (both professionally and socially).

  • What is the general acceptance/stance on western workers? I'm assuming it's not as insular as Japan comparatively speaking.

Hi Bubba, thanks for your questions.

Speaking for Singapore, yes, knowing English is more than enough to get by. Speaking for my own BB at least- most of their clients were international institutional clients (i.e. they are pretty well-established and do use English to communicate day-to-day). As long as you're aiming for an international desk (e.g. Macro sales) instead of a "coverage" desk (e.g. China sales), then knowing English is enough. Socially as well- English is the main language used in Singapore.

For Hong Kong, knowing only English is certainly not a dealbreaker, but obviously you are disadvantaged, since there are tons of Mainland Chinese or Hong Kongers that are applying for the same job. At least for sales, more and more BBs are looking for people that can speak Asian languages. Especially since there are more and more desks that cover certain regions (e.g. Hong Kong sales, China sales, etc), and desks like corporate sales, which all require local language abilities. Socially speaking, English is enough to get by in Hong Kong- although picking up a bit of Cantonese or Mandarin won't hurt.

The general stance on Western workers - yes, it's not as insular as Japan. But I do want to highlight that there's a lack of diversity in Singapore (quite ironic since Singapore is a cultural melting pot). In my BB, it was split between Singaporeans and Indians, with only 1 Western worker out of ~100. This is almost the same case at two other BBs. There are many, though, that are educated in US/UK, so in some sense they are Asians that have been westernized.

In Hong Kong, however, it's a completely different story. There are many Western workers here, compared to Singapore, so in general people are very open and nice to each other. Obviously as a Westerner you'd have to make a strong case on why you want to start your career in Asia compared to UK or the US, but in general, banks are very open to it.

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  • Analyst 1 in S&T - FI
Dec 3, 2019 - 8:58pm
big dawg 5:

what are some qualities in summer interns that DIDN'T get the return offer?

In general, people got screwed on headcount problems this year- Some BBs had a 0% conversion rate, most were in the 20-30% range. Only 2 or 3 BBs had a 50% conversation rate.

But some interns that didn't get the return offer had the following qualities:

  1. Arriving late, got caught sleeping.
  2. Focused too much on work- forgot about the networking part. S&T summer analyst programs are more of a popularity contest than not.
  3. Not showing up for social events- yes, some full-timers actually notice this.
  4. Some interns just didn't have what it takes to understand the various S&T concepts.

I'll add more after I think of more.

Dec 3, 2019 - 6:15pm

Congrats on your offer, and thanks a lot for doing this! A few questions:

  1. How big is the impact of the ongoing Hong Kong protests to recruiting in S&T and in finance in general?
  2. What would be the target schools for S&T in the Southeast Asian region?
  3. How would you compare the reputation/prestige of BB S&T in SG/HK versus NYC/London?
  • Analyst 1 in S&T - FI
Dec 3, 2019 - 9:04pm
dston:

Congrats on your offer, and thanks a lot for doing this! A few questions:
  1. How big is the impact of the ongoing Hong Kong protests to recruiting in S&T and in finance in general?
  2. What would be the target schools for S&T in the Southeast Asian region?
  3. How would you compare the reputation/prestige of BB S&T in SG/HK versus NYC/London?

  • Can't say much about finance in general- but at least for S&T, there is barely any impact. Most BBs deal with international clients that don't necessarily invest in Hong Kong. Some desks like Hong Kong sales, or Hong Kong corporate sales are obviously getting hit hard, but generally speaking it's fine.

  • The more concerning part is actually the US-China trade war and weak economic conditions though. This has hit on headcount in 2019, and I don't expect 2020 to be any easier than 2019 either.

    1. Southeast Asian region? I can only think of Singaporean schools- NUS, NTU, SMU. SMU places really well in finance- perhaps due to their emphasis on practicality compared to NUS and NTU that are more academic. Can't think of others unfortunately...

    2. Could you clarify question further?

    Dec 4, 2019 - 1:32am

    Congrats on making it into return offer. I am wondering whether:
    1. Is there any chance for non-target school student to break into BB?
    2. What made you outstanding from HR's viewpoint?
    3. What resources you found useful in landing an internship offer?

    • Analyst 1 in S&T - FI
    Dec 4, 2019 - 2:17am
    sign911:

    Congrats on making it into return offer. I am wondering whether:
    1. Is there any chance for non-target school student to break into BB?
    2. What made you outstanding from HR's viewpoint?
    3. What resources you found useful in landing an internship offer?
    1. In Asia? Short answer: yes. It's not as crazy as the US, where the obsession is in targets vs non-targets.

    2. Don't understand this question unfortunately..... HR doesn't make hiring decisions.

    3. WSO, of course. Other than that, market views, economic outlooks from AMs are also great to form views on the economy. Seeking alpha for stock pitches. And of course, don't forget your behaviourals.

    Sep 22, 2020 - 11:10pm

    Congrats on your offer! I was wondering if you had any insight on how insight on how recruiting will change in HK this year with COVID-19. Additionally, do you have any tips for candidates going through the hirevue -> phone -> final interview process?
    Thanks!

    Sep 27, 2020 - 10:58pm

    Congrats on your graduate offer! I am currently applying for BB SA positions for APAC, so it feels really nice to see someone who's actually working at APAC region(seems this site is mostly about EMEA) I have few question:

    1. Is there serious disadvantage for Asian who doesn't speak Mandarin or Cantonese fluently for trading positions? 

    -I'm national in other APAC country, but only able to understand basic Mandarin(obtained HSK level 5, but it was 4 years ago, so I doubt I could put this in my resume) 

    2. Is there disadvantage for people who do not have citizenship in Hongkong or Singapore when applying? Or do BBs apply same criteria when hiring?

    3. How long is the approximate period for internship hiring process? For example, most BBs set their application deadlines at late September to October, then when would be the time that the they make final decision for the Summer Analyst? 

    • Incoming Analyst in S&T - FI
    Sep 28, 2020 - 12:38am

    Hi not OP but former APAC 2020 SA here, thought I'd chime in since this thread is kinda dead

    1. Serious disadvantage - no, it would matter more in HK, but even still it's definitely doable, although speaking any kind of Asian language definitely helps (Korean, Hindi, Bahasa etc). Will add that fluent English matters most since unless ur on a regional coverage desk the daily language will be english

    2. Citizenship - no (at least in HK, not 100% sure about sg), there's a sizeable proportion of SAs that are foreign nationals/non-local

    3. Offers usually come out around November - some BBs have their superdays earlier some have em later. Usually you'll hear back in 24 hours after the superday

    • Prospect in HF - Macro
    Sep 16, 2021 - 12:14pm

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