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The dim sum pie expands but Hong Kong hiring is surprisingly low key

Singapore banks will bank these

Singapore banks will bank these

Even as banks in Hong Kong aggressively compete for a slice of the yuan pie, the city’s expanding market for the Chinese currency hasn’t translated into a massive hiring drive.

Bloomberg reports that the sale of dim sum bonds is expected to more than double to 300bn yuan this year; dim sum loans on the other hand may jump twofold to 60bn yuan. However, Hong Kong recruiters say corresponding demand for RMB specialists isn’t as fervent as might have been expected.

Louisa Wong, founder and executive chairman, Bo Le Associates, says: “Banks mostly hired in 2010 and 2011, but hiring has dropped off since then, particularly as market conditions are bad.”

Paul Siu, managing director, Global Associates, agrees. “Although there is some yuan-related hiring in the current market, we don’t see financial institutions doing this aggressively.”

Still some hot spots

This isn’t to say RMB expertise isn’t wanted. Some firms are committed to their RMB business. Barclays, for instance, hired Rickie Chan as its Hong Kong market head from Goldman Sachs earlier this year.

The most sough-after bankers are mainly client-facing relationship managers. Wong is seeing a need for mid to senior candidates, with origination and business development skills. However, Eunice Ng, director, Avanza Consulting, says there’s also demand for middle-office people with good control and compliance knowledge who can support the front office in completing deals.

Salary increases aren’t huge

Given that demand for yuan specialists has been fairly muted, salary increases have not been exorbitant. Ng adds that most employers won’t provide excessive pay rises, although some will offer a 10 to 20 per cent increment.

As some of these candidates hail from backgrounds like corporate banking or fixed income, compensation tends to be tied to work experience. Wong says: “These salaries are different from traditional investment banking which has a large incentive bonus. Salaries range from a HK$1.2m to $1.8m base, with incentives.”

Headhunters were, however, divided on the prospects of redundant bankers switching over to the still-growing RMB sector. While Wong says those with deep corporate-client relationships may be able to secure yuan jobs; Ng reckons it’s going to be tough because proven knowledge and experience will still be needed.

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