FEWER new jobs are being created in the financial sector here as banks and other institutions outsource some functions overseas, sharpen their focus on specialised skills and adapt to rapid technological change.
But industry players note that pockets of strong hiring remain in the sector, which has been an important driver of Singapore's economic growth in recent years.
Still, the heyday of jumping from bank to bank with higher salaries that come with each leap may well be over, as banks and other financial institutions become more discerning about whom they hire and more focused on retention of existing staff.
As Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam noted at a recent industry event: "Our financial sector has significant opportunities ahead of it. However, growth will demand deeper skills and expertise, rather than a large expansion of jobs."
The jobs being created now are more complex and include roles in portfolio management and investment analysis, product structuring, risk management and technology, noted Mr Tharman, who is also Finance Minister.
Across the financial sector here, jobs growth has decelerated in recent years.
About 5,000 new jobs were created in the sector for each of 2012 and 2013, compared with about 10,000 a year in 2010 and 2011.
Robert Half Singapore managing director Stella Tang noted finance professionals tend to move with more caution now. Banks have also been more selective and more hiring managers are involved in the process.
"They prefer to hire someone with a direct fit and specific technical skills that are non-negotiable," she said, adding that many banks are restructuring now to see where their growth areas are.
One trend hurting job-seekers here is that financial services firms have started to send a number of their mid-office and back-office functions offshore.
Ms Vyon Ng, consulting manager in talent acquisition in Achieve Group, noted that for the past two years, there has been much less hiring for treasury operation roles as many banks outsource this function overseas.
Technology has also proven a major disruptive force, changing the nature of some finance jobs or rendering others redundant.
"The combined effect of offshoring and automation has put pressure on job expansion and we have seen flattening of job growth," said Mr Pathik Gupta, director and head of Asia-Pacific wealth management at McLagan, a management consultancy that works with financial firms.
In the US, the advent of mobile banking and electronic trading has led to significant job cuts in finance. This trend will likely echo around the globe, analysts say.
"What a (bank) branch was used for 20 years ago is completely different today, which means you need different type of people manning branches," noted Mr Mark Young, head of Asia-Pacific financial institutions for ratings agency Fitch Ratings.
Mr Tharman noted in his speech that by some estimates, about 30 to 40 per cent of spot traders are at risk of being replaced as electronic trading becomes more prevalent.
But there are still opportunities in finance for those with the right skills. Human resource players told The Straits Times that risk, compliance and legal talent are now the most sought-after among middle-office roles.
Recruitment also continues for front-office relationship management roles, which could be in corporate banking or wealth management, said Mr Gupta.
At DBS Bank, headcount has been expanded in areas including wealth management and transaction banking as the lender expands in Asia.
It is also increasing talent in fields such as digital banking, said Ms Theresa Phua, managing director and Singapore head of group human resources at the bank.
Banks and financial services firms are also looking for job-seekers with technology skills.
Citi, for instance, is working with universities and software development partners to identify and groom future technologists. It is also hiring graduates as technology associates, said Ms Evangeline Chua, head of human resources for Citi Singapore.
New roles do not always mean more external hiring, however. Banks are keen to retain existing staff and make more investments in them through training.
Ms Jacinta Low, OCBC Bank's head of human resource planning, said that since 2008, more than 25 per cent of the bank's vacancies are filled internally every year on average.
UOB also has comprehensive training programmes to ensure that its staff's technical expertise, such as financial modelling or quantitative analysis, keeps in step with the changing banking environment, said Ms Jenny Wong, its head of human resources.
In general, job-seekers say they are finding it harder to land their ideal roles in Singapore.
Mr Sophian Hardie, 26, who was in customer service in the banking industry for three years and has been looking for a role in crisis management for two months, has noticed that fewer new jobs are being created.
Banks have called him to offer interviews only for specific roles, such as in compliance, and people are now staying in their banking jobs and job-hopping less because of lower job security, he said.
To help train local workers in finance skills, some schemes have ben implemented in Singapore.
For instance, more than 4,000 trainees benefit from the Institute of Banking and Finance Standards Training Scheme each year, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) told The Straits Times.
The MAS' own Financial Training Scheme benefits more than 18,000 trainees from close to 400 financial institutions yearly.
The Financial Scholarship Programme (FSP), launched by the MAS in 2007, has also awarded 156 scholarships since it started.