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Hang Seng faces a few hiring hurdles in its China push

Hang Seng Bank (China) hopes to continue to grow in the mainland this year, despite the Chinese government’s tightening measures and a tough job market for employers. The Hong Kong-based bank must compete for talent with both foreign and Chinese institutions, many of whom dwarf it in size and brand reputation.

Hang Seng’s priorities in China include expanding wealth management and cross-border trade yuan settlement, according to the Shanghai Daily. It has already met the Chinese regulatory requirement that locally-incorporated overseas banks must cap their loan-to-savings ratios under 75 per cent, and is confident that it will maintain the level, says Margaret Leung, its chairwoman.

Although Hang Seng’s does not have a well-recognised brand name in the mainland China – where it is commonly regarded as a second-tier foreign firm behind the likes of HSBC – it is nevertheless actively trying to recruit top candidates. The firm, which has 38 mainland outlets, is constantly competing for staff with both foreign and domestic firms, says a recruiter who specialises in front-office positions for international banks.

“We have seen an influx of talents from Standard Chartered, Citi, DBS and township commercial banks. Hang Seng is focusing mostly on personal banking and has advantages in traditional bank services, though not so many in investment banking,” says Sarah Wang, banking & finance consultant, Kelly Service.

Kyle Qin, associate consultant, Shfinder Talent Services, adds: “As a relatively small foreign bank, Hang Seng needs to recruit top quality salespeople who can provide high-end services. In China, competition for talent is very fierce. Hang Seng Bank, a brand originally from Hong Kong, is famous for its service. But with a high turnover rate, especially for sales positions, there are constant hiring needs.”

Although people from foreign firms are considered, Qin believes the ideal candidates come from Chinese banks and have strong client networks. The best ones are senior executives with more than 15 years’ experience in big four local banks, who can help drive Hang Seng’s expansion plans.

Candidates from large foreign banks don’t always find it easy to adapt to working in Hang Seng. Difficulties arise from differences in client bases, platforms and products, says Qin.

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