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The Singapore Recruitment Review - Focusing on the Future

Cobalt Singapore Team

Article posted by Marcus Davies Bateman

​To say that this year is unrivalled when it comes to challenges previously unseen in living memory is something of an understatement. But there is a definite feeling we are coming out the other side and beginning to focus on the future again, moving away from the defensive nature of the past 6 months.

And the recruitment market can often be used as a barometer to gauge where the market is really at, and what the underlying sentiment truly is.

Whether companies are actively, strategically or speculatively hiring or if clients imposing recruitment freezes often indicates market confidence and is an insight into whether we have a bullish or bearish outlook.

We have been grateful to see activity rising in August and September, up from the lows of May and June. This increase in our live job mandates, across all our teams/disciplines, suggests there are a growing and healthy undertone to what has previously felt like a wary, fragile or shattered confidence. Our experience has been that clients are most comfortable recruiting at the mid-level (Manager to VP) with some Associate appointments. We have seen slightly less senior-level mandates (Director, SVP, Heads of Dept, C-suite) but have seen a significant upturn in the number of coffees and lunches we have arranged at this level – most of these have been strategic meetings to discuss new projects, plans and hires for 2021.

So, all in all, it is much more positive today than it was yesterday, and as we enter Q4 we hope this continues.

So this is what the team has to say:

Simin Wu | Real Estate

If you’re a specialist in capital raising, investor relations, property leasing and asset management OR if you’re working in datacentres or in the logistics or REITs sector – We want YOU!

Cobalt Asia has been kept busy with many of our clients in expansion mode particularly in Singapore and Southeast Asia, including Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and beyond.

The retail sector is in better shape than we would have expected and our clients in logistics and datacentres are actively hiring as well.

While the hiring process is taking slightly longer than before, many of our clients are keeping an open mind and meeting with good candidates during this time.

Natalie Chan | Engineering

We are currently working with several design consultancies in Singapore who are currently in expansion mode.

The Data Centre space has been more active than it’s ever been! Many companies are actively hiring Mechanical and Electrical Engineers especially after the announcement of a few major tech companies that have established their data centres here.

The Built Environment industry is set for greater growth in the future, there are lots of upcoming building and infrastructure developments and many clients looking to hire Civil, Structural, Geotechnical and Bridge Engineers.

Although the hiring process is taking a little longer than usual, many clients are still keeping an open mind and meeting good candidates during this time.

Annabel Leach | IT

This year has seen an increased reliance on using secure, fast and available apps (web and mobile) for both personal and business reasons. With the huge uptake of online activity throughout Circuit Breaker and with security still increasing in importance, we have seen a surge in demand for professionals within:

  • Development (Mobile and App)

  • Data

  • Security

Whilst these trends have been apparent in the past few years, clients have been focusing more on the speed at which they can adapt to recent changing user demands and the importance of how their data is being identified and consumed during these unique times. Our clients have been successful in onboarding professionals in these areas over recent months in reaction to urgent business needs and they continue to do so within media, e-commerce, proptech, fintech and IT service industries. We also expect to see an increase in tech roles within construction and engineering as the market recovers; many are already planning the growth of new teams and the adoption of smart technologies/apps.

Wei Yolk | Real Estate

2020 has been a challenging year for most so far but as the saying goes, there’s always a rainbow after the rain (cliché but true) and it feels like we are beginning to get a glimpse of better days ahead.

Why do I say so? Hiring activity in the Real Estate space saw a significant uptick as we came out of Phase 2, particularly in the Data Centre and Logistics sectors. Data centres, which were previously seen by investors as specialist niche assets have now come into favour, with the demand driven by the adaptation of digitalisation and perhaps accelerated by the ongoing pandemic. Logistics real estate is also another hot favourite, given pre-existing structural shortages with vast new demand bolstered by the increasing popularity of e-commerce retailing. There is also a shift in eyeballs towards the emerging markets in Asia as investors chase higher yields and this, in turn, has created new job opportunities based here as Singapore remains a hub for the region.

Bucking general perception, the suburban retail market is also displaying a resilient showing, with footfall holding up despite the ongoing challenges caused by the Coronavirus. Landlords with a huge suburban retail portfolio continue to hire talent to boost their leasing and centre management capabilities as they compete to secure strong anchor tenants and popular retail brands.

Aji Abu | IT

Is there is a tech boom amidst this pandemic? The short answer is yes!

Since the Circuit breaker measures were deployed in Singapore, Cobalt Recruitment has seen exponential growth in the number of technology and Digital mandates from our clients.

This comes from 2 areas.

1. Businesses who had always subscribed in principle to the idea of digital transformation but were agnostic about its ROI.

2. Businesses that openly welcome Technology but were unsure about its execution.

Needless to say that #3 is that subset of organisations that were ahead of the other two siblings. They transitioned seamlessly through this period.

Which sectors are recruiting?

Property tech start-ups were the once who received the lion's share of fundings from investors this year.

An advanced country like Singapore is working towards becoming the leading destination for real estate tech and adapting these practices locally. With the government’s effort and attention towards this sector, and at making Singapore a technologically smart city, one can expect exponential growth here. Innovations are booming with the conducive ecosystem of entrepreneurship and the good life, making sure that real estate tech in Singapore booms.

The PropTech revolution has long started in Singapore and the next few years will be crucial to see how advanced we can get.

Gabby Kartyasa | Real Estate

We are approaching the end of Q3 2020 and I am extremely grateful to have been able to help candidates find roles during this pandemic.

The recruitment landscape has fared much better than we would have anticipated when we went into Circuit Breaker back in April. Singapore remains a strong foothold in terms of investment as there is a confidence that the COVID situation will be dealt with the utmost of care.

As we adapt to remote working, I have seen that demands in data centres and logistics have picked up. Although there was some struggle, retail is also in better shape than we anticipated. People are more open to network than ever as we want to connect and keep ourselves productive during this difficult time.

Mabel | Real Estate Finance

After what has been the most challenging start to a year, as we approach the last quarter of 2020 hiring for finance professionals within the real estate space fortunately remains a key demand.

Despite the economic uncertainties brought about by the COVID-19 outbreak, the long-term outlook for REITs or real estate investments remains positive, buoyed by new measures that will give them greater flexibility to manage their cash flows and raise funds amid a challenging operating environment.

In terms of sectors, data centre, industrial and healthcare-related REITs have generally remained resilient during this COVID-19 period. Data centres have benefited from the uptrend in data creation and storage needs as more people work from home. With generally longer weighted average lease expiries (WALEs) compared to their peers, industrial REITs have also fared better amid the operating challenges brought on by the pandemic.

Employers are also adapting towards interviewing via video conferences for their hiring processes during this period and we have even made successful placements and onboarding through complete remote working.

Alice Poh | Legal & Compliance (In-House)

The legal and compliance market in Singapore continues to develop, thanks largely to the Singapore government’s initiatives to grow the sector and invest in the infrastructure that supports it.

Over the last 12 months, we have seen increased levels of recruitment activity within Technology, Payments, Fintech sector and is almost certain to continue leading the way when M&A markets rebound from the slowdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Some industries directly impacted by the pandemic – such as aviation, construction, travel, retail or live entertainment – may be slow to recover.

With the new Payment Service Act (PSA) in place in late 2019, many companies are interested in recruiting legal professionals with a strong understanding of PSA and that gave rise to an increase in demand for payments/regulatory/data privacy lawyers. Competition for talent remains fierce and will continue to be.

Over the past 9 years, Cobalt’s Legal & Compliance desk has built a strong network of clients and candidates in SEA region and successfully supported MNC clients in the region. Having a deep understanding of our clients' industries and the challenges that they face is key to delivering the right profiles, not just in skillsets but also in personality/corporate fit.

Siu Meng Leong | Construction & Property

While the construction and property development industries have been hit hard from COVID-19 with the inability to get people on site, it has been great to see a bounce back in Q3 with pockets of activity coming from both locally in Singapore and regionally. With opportunities to forge ahead in the growing logistics and data centre industries as well as the ever-present infrastructure works and clients who are in the position to play the long game and continue investing and developing into the market.

We have partnered with key players who are working with us to continue to grow and strategically hire in this crazy year. Often this has just accelerated long-terms plans they had or potentially opened up new opportunities to capitalize on.

With these unprecedented times we have embraced technology and been able to maintain connections whilst in isolation and social distancing. We hope that these new efficiencies and lessons it has brought will continue out the other end and that we can all benefit from working more effectively.

Employers are still as demanding with their requirements but there is an opportunity for those to adapt to finding those who have the right attributes but may not have necessarily worked on exactly the same role as what they are looking for and as the market does improve this will be key for those who can adapt and embrace the change in landscape.

We’re here if you need help defining a role or brief, specialist insight to help shape your ideas or expert help with your recruitment process. Just get in touch to arrange a conversation with one of the team or if you’re ready for us to find the perfect person for you, send us your brief.

If you’re looking for your ideal job send your CV to us to get started or search for the latest job vacancies and we’ll get the ball rolling.