‘Salary’ was found to be the primary concern for both employees (49%) and candidates (58%) in 2021.

According to the 2021 Hays Asia Salary Guide, however, salaries have stagnated over the last year, with 35% of companies across Asia providing no increase – almost double that of 2020 (18%).

Additionally, 6% of companies in Asia decreased wages, and these trends are likely to continue in 2021, with 37% of employers forecasting stasis and 4% predicting decrement.

Apart from salaries, jobseekers have been found to regularly demand flexible work options when chasing a new role, with home and mobile working the most preferred option (63%) followed by flexitime (57%) and compressed hours (28%).

The salary guide also revealed salaries for roles across 17 sectors, ranging from human resources to banking & financial services, and marketing & digital.

Based on that, we’ve pulled out the three highest-paying roles (annual salaries) across 5 of these sectors below.

Banking & financial services


Professionals with a strong understanding of financial products coupled with a sound knowledge of the technology will be in enduring demand, as will product owners and development professionals with experience in the issuance of digital, full and wholesale banking licenses.

At the same time, an increase in recruitment is expected for relationship managers in corporate and institutional banking with a ‘hunter’ mindset for business development as well as strong credit analysis skills and sound product knowledge of cash management, trade finance and treasury products.

Another group on employers’ radars are those with a strong understanding of anti-money laundering regulations and MAS regulatory guidelines (SFA & FAA). Furthermore, retail banking hiring will see marked improvements in the coming year, with an uptick in demand for investment counsellors and relationship managers in the first half of 2021.

The top three highest paying roles are: 

  • Managing Director (Corporate Finance, M&A, ECM/DCM): S$350,000+
  • Director (Corporate Finance, M&A, ECM/DCM): S$220,000 – S$350,000
  • Managing Director (Financial Markets Sales, Institutional, Corporate, Research, Hedge Funds): S$300,000+


2021 will see a trend for foreign banks choosing Malaysia over Singapore when they centralise bank office operations, resulting in an upskilling of the existing talent pool. In addition, the shortages in risk model validation and development mean that banks are willing to pay premiums for this candidate short role, while IT and governance functions will also retain their sought-after status.

The top three highest paying roles are: 

  • Head of Research (asset Management): RM300,000 – RM540,000
  • Department Head (Commercial Banking): RM480,000+
  • Department Head (Financial Institutions Banking): RM480,000+

Digital technology


Companies are expected to compete fiercely for digital technology talent. 

This domestic technical talent demand means that candidates may have multiple offers, leading to inflated wage demands that are incompatible with employer expectations. In order to mitigate for this salary pressure, companies will offer specialist allowances for experienced and technically certified individuals.

In the software space, as global smartphone users are projected to top 3.8 billion in 2021, companies will accelerate into the digital sector, creating a demand for software engineers. However, companies seeking developers, data engineers and data scientists with AI and data algorithm skills will find that the market is tragically short.

The top three highest paying roles are: 

  • CISO (Cybersecurity): S$150,000 – S$400,000
  • Head of Data (Analytics & Big Data): S$180,000 – S$300,000
  • Deep Learning Project Manager (AI): S$120,000 – S$240,000


Candidates in relevant product manager and digital transformation roles are expected to be in demand. At the same time, a substantial uptrend in sectors related to private cloud systems can be expected, leading to an increase in demand for DevOps professionals, especially in cybersecurity.

Furthermore, as companies increasingly incorporate data functions into business decisions and grow these increasingly important chapters of operations, talent who can analyse or crunch data will continue to be required over the coming year.

All of this fluctuation will lead to substantial salary turbulence, leading companies to seek out creative salary packages with an emphasis upon remunerating highly certified talent with technical allowances. Roles that will be best rewarded can be found in the market-retrenched technical areas of coding and algorithm within e-commerce and in the digital webspace, as well as in the more niche areas of emerging technologies.

The top three highest paying roles are: 

  • CISO (Cybersecurity): RM360,000 – RM720,000
  • Head of Data (ANALYTICS & BIG DATA): RM350,000 – RM600,000
  • Cybersecurity Consultant (Cybersecurity): RM216,000 – RM480,000

Finance technology


In 2021, demand for technology candidates will continue apace as the Singapore government looks to position the nation as a leading global technology centre. The desire to recruit local talent will continue throughout the year to come, resulting in numerous opportunities for top Singaporean technology talent. However, in order to address skill gaps in the market there remains robust demand for foreign talent in niche or emerging tech roles, especially those who are locally based.

In terms of technical expertise, software developers with excellent hands-on skills are in high demand, particularly those with exposure to C++, C#, Python and Java. As companies look to enhance user experience properties, candidates with user interface and user experience backgrounds will be increasingly valuable. This demand is especially notable in banks and insurance companies as they look to head off challenges from emerging digital players.

As businesses adopt more digitally focused strategies, it will be necessary to address the associated risks. Therefore, cybersecurity candidates are vital hires for companies as they look to ensure greater business resilience.

The top three highest paying roles are: 

  • Managing Director for Electronic Trading, Project Management: S$400,000+
  • Managing Director for Cash (All assets), Project Management: S$300,000+
  • Managing Director for Derivatives (All assets), C#: S$300,000+


Once considered a niche specialism, fintech is fast becoming a mainstream model for Malaysian businesses, driving consumer behaviours in a myriad of ways. It is also shifting how businesses operate, and the ‘new normal’ will be shaped by fintech.

Interest in digital banking increased in 2020, with digital payments and lending chief amongst the services that consumers have adopted. However, most banks are still in implementation stages, leading to recruitment drives for developers for inhouse applications in 2021, while concurrently legacy systems are to be redesigned for a more customer-centric experience. 

Additionally, user experience and user interface designers with fintech product experience such as e-Wallets and KYC will see higher than average salary increments.

The top three highest paying roles are: 

  • Managing Director for Electronic Trading, Project Management: RM350,000+
  • Managing Director for Derivatives (All assets), Java: RM320,000+
  • Managing Director for Electronic Trading, Java: RM280,000+

Information technology


Domestic candidates in the areas of government risk and compliance, IT security operations, digital forensic response and penetration testing are expected to be high in demand, pushing salary expectations up. However, this comes at a time when companies are tightening budgets, leading to employers and candidates frequently coming to an impasse.

Hence, recruitment specialists must manage expectations on both sides, highlighting to the former that they may need to pay premium salaries for the right candidates, while the latter might be convinced that sideways moves are acceptable.

Candidates that organisations will be prioritising are DevOps engineers with strong hands-on and continualisation skills, experience in the latest automation, and are familiar with cloud solutions such as Amazon Web Services and Google Platform. However, due to extreme talent shortages, desperate employers are willing to accept systems engineers who have no direct DevOps background but have experience in enhanced current systems with reliability and efficiency.

The top three highest paying roles are: 

  • Industry Consultant (Business Development in Business): S$320,000 – S$550,000
  • Industry Consultant (Business Development in Telecom | Business): S$300,000 – S$550,000
  • Chief Information Officer (Management Roles in Business): S$300,000 – S$525,000


The market is expected to see an ever-increasing requirement for IT candidates, particularly those experienced in DevOps. Unfortunately, employers searching in this area are to be disappointed by the insufficient depth of the talent pool. Further, with digital transformation and companies adopting more agile methodologies in project implementation, there will be a demand for project managers who can function in traditional languages as well as new languages.

Notably, recruitment is not purely driven by replacement, but also by headcount expansion. With a focus on domestic hires, organisations must retain their experienced employees as well as entice others from elsewhere. This is especially important for tech developers, where candidates can expect 25% salary increases as well as non-monetary benefits such as flexi-work and – in order to inspire loyalty and longevity – stock options.

The top three highest paying roles are: 

  • Chief Information Officer (Management Roles in Business): RM300,000 – RM720,000
  • Project/Program Director (Analysis & Project In Telecom | Business): RM240,000 – RM720,000
  • Director Services (Management Roles In Telecom | Business): RM330,000 – RM540,000

**Credit: Jerene Ang

***All information taken from https://www.humanresourcesonline.net/the-highest-paying-roles-across-10-sectors-in-singapore-and-malaysia-in-2021

Want to know more on jobs Icon Consulting Group has based in Singapore or Malaysia in these sectors? Reach out to IconConsultingGroup.com/contact for more information.

Published On: March 30th, 2021 / Categories: Human Resources, Industry news, Singapore News / Tags: , , , /

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