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"My Singapore banking career was blighted by relentless rounds of restructuring"

I have spent the past three decades working for a major international bank in Singapore and as I look back on my time here, I see that one thing has dominated my life: the fear of losing my job. 

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The bank I worked for was forever restructuring. Every two to three years it seemed that a new unit was set up and another unit demolished. The staff in the unwanted unit were retrenched. A handful would be asked to apply for other internal postings, but there was never any guarantee they'd get anything. They had to go through the process of interviewing repetitively, just like an external applicant. 

No one outside the bank appreciates the constant precarity because no one talks about it. Insiders say nothing, and the retrenched staff simply disappear. They sign a non-disclosure form, which means that their bonus or severance package will be forfeited if they complain to outsiders.  


I get the impression that this is worse in Singapore than anywhere else. There seems to be less scrutiny here. Every time there's a new boss, they can effectively bring in their own people and wipe out existing teams. They do this by inventing new departments and job titles that create an excuse to restructure, but effectively the new team will do exactly the same tasks. It creates a huge waste of money for shareholders, but no one seems to care. 

The last time this happened, I left for good. My new boss wanted to hire her own people and offered me a package to leave. I was put at risk, but four new roles were created, and I was asked to train the new juniors up on an extended notice period. I did that, but I won't be doing it again.

Are other banks like this, or have I just been unlucky?

Candice Hyatt is a pseudonym

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AUTHORCandice Hyatt Global Editor
  • D>
    9 February 2024

    My experience was the same, having been let go twice and 2 knowing things were going south, I looked for a new job before things went down. There is often a lot of experimenting without enough research and many ideas that don't make sense. That is why I decided to start my own fintech. I rather die by my own hands than have it determined for me by incompetent "leaders" who did a good job of selling ideas to senior management or stakeholders

    Recently I spoke to a digital lender who believes that loan brokers will refer borrowers to use their app and bypass the human element entirely to be more cost effective. Loan brokers charge SMEs a finder fee of 5-10%. If it is just : "here I found an app, apply here and they quote you directly", would you pay? They need to at least act like they are working hard. I met commercial loan directors hired for SME loans and partnership managers who never had any single day of experience in SME loans. These would be another batch of probably capable people who "die" and understand later while the damage doesn't reach the middle management who can just hire again.

  • Jo
    John Stuart
    7 February 2024

    I can definitely relate working in a SG based bank myself. Finance industry is not what it was, my advice is to find a career somewhere else.

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