UK Investment Bankers Prefer Singapore

Almost a third of UK-based investment bankers would rather work in Singapore, according to a survey that predicts that the center of gravity in the financial sector will shift towards Asia in the next decade.

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The southeast-Asian city state has become the most favored location for investment bankers who are based in London, research by financial services recruitment firm Astbury Marsden shows.

Of the 462 investment bankers that were asked, 31 percent said they would most like to work in Singapore. By comparison, only a fifth preferred New York and only 19 percent opted in favor of London.

In the year before, 22 percent named London as their preferred location, underlining how the British capital has lost some appeal among investment bankers amid tighter regulation and a clampdown on bonuses.

“A fast growing, low tax and bank friendly environment like Singapore stands as a perfect antidote to the comparatively high tax and anti-banker sentiment of London and New York,” said Mark Cameron, chief operating officer at Astbury Marsden.

“Far more London-based bankers are now more willing and able to relocate the 6,700 miles to Singapore.”

US and European investment banks have in the past decade invested heavily in building their Asian operations, hiring thousands and setting up offices across the continent.

This year, US bank JPMorgan Chase even moved its global head of investment banking coverage from New York to Hong Kong as part of its push into Asia.

While some banks pay their Asian staff in line with global standards, many reward them with higher salaries than in Europe given the better growth prospects, according to research by Egon Zehnder International, the executive search firm. Bankers in mainland China are at a particular premium.

The continent’s largest economy is seen as the main growth driver in the region. In the past year, it accounted for three quarters of Asia’s investment banking revenues excluding Japan, data from JPMorgan shows.

But so far, the continent has failed to live up to expectations, with only one fifth of global investment banking revenues being made in Asia ex-Japan.

With profits coming under pressure, a number of banks have even slashed jobs during the past year.

But one senior US investment banker said his bank had stopped moving people over to London at the same time as it continued to send people to Singapore and other Asian cities.

He added that if a proposed cap on bonuses comes into force in the European Union, the bank would consider relocating some of its senior staff from London to Asia.

In the survey, three fifths of the bankers expect the Asia-Pacific region to become the biggest financial services center in ten years’ time, while only one fifth forecast that to be the case for London.