The growth of Singapore as a hub for value-added financial services — trade and infrastructure finance, wealth management, commodities trading, treasury services and risk management among them — will only increase demand for talented individuals from domestic and international companies alike.

It is widely recognised that most global businesses today need to tap global talent pools. These increasingly complex and often matrix organisations require managers to have a more global perspective.

Singaporeans by nature and circumstance are at home with diversity and many are equipped with the right skills to succeed in an international organisation.

If you are seeking a dynamic and challenging career, the financial services industry could be for you. Opportunities abound in international banks that offer talented employees roles across functions and geographies.

The broad outlook these experiences provide gives you a comparative advantage, by working in international teams and collaborating across borders, to living abroad.

If you are considering an international career in banking and finance, here are some general guidelines:


You will need to be a well-rounded individual, with a strong academic background and interpersonal skills. In school, hone crucial skills needed in the corporate world such as relationship building, communication and presentation.

Build up your leadership capabilities by getting involved in and heading up activities or projects. Taking part in a national or international project or competition is one of the many ways to see how well you can perform under pressure as well as manage multiple stakeholders.

Internships are highly recommended both for experience and as preparation for the real corporate world. They will provide you with insights into possible career choices and allow you to build business networks.

A good internship performance may help accelerate your career path and open doors to securing a permanent role with the company on graduation.

Getting started

Some banks offer programmes for new graduates looking for a career that will give them international exposure.

For example, Standard Chartered’s International Graduate Programme offers graduates the opportunity to take on different roles within a 12- to 18-month period with the possibility of an international move on completion of the final year.

Requirements for such programmes vary from company to company, but in general you need to be articulate, highly motivated, analytical, have a positive attitude and be able to think strategically. Being adaptable is also a plus, along with enjoying new experiences.

Experienced hires

For those with work experience, the first step to an international banking career is seeking out financial service providers who have operations in countries where there may be a shortage of people with your particular expertise.

Once hired, stay open to opportunities as they present themselves. Your first international assignment may be somewhere you never imagined you would have gone before. But take the challenge and it will pay off in the long run.

Global managers must be able to cope with and even enjoy lots of change. Not only must they be personally resilient, coping with the unpredictability of the external environment and the sheer amount of general change, but they also need to be able to support their teams through these situations.

Global managers are required to manage teams from different cultures, embracing an inclusive leadership style, which is gained from understanding and respecting those cultures. They must be able to adjust their communication and engagement approach.

Working overseas helps employees to gain this insight, but working as part of cross-border teams in an international organisation also provides valuable experience.

International rotations can help you gain better insights of the market you are working in, as well as aid learning in terms of exchanging “best practice” ideas, understanding different perspectives and gaining experience in working with, or managing people from different cultures.

On assignment

Once you have landed an international assignment, be open and flexible to the new culture and ways of working.  Always remember you are outside your country and do not expect things to be exactly the same as at home.

Try new things. Understand why people think the way they do and how they bring their culture to bear at work every day. Get a buddy to show you around and help you with cultural nuances at work and outside of work.

Many banks, including Standard Chartered, encourage employees to move across functions and geographies, to gain more exposure and learn different parts of the business. Their management believe that this is a good way to develop leaders for the organisation.

The world is your stage

In today’s increasingly demanding and competitive workplace, international experience may help you stand out from the crowd and hopefully position you for faster career growth, making it all worth the effort.