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Maybank expands in China but can it attract local talent?

Beijing

Maybank has expanded its Chinese operations by opening its first branch in Beijing and is expected to hire more salespeople, particularly in trade finance. But in a talent-short market and in a country obsessed with employer branding, the Malaysian firm will need to work hard to recruit and retain local staff in the face of competition from more established Asian rivals.

The new office has 20 employees, which takes Maybank’s greater China headcount to 151 – it already has branches in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Recruiters in China say regulatory requirements mean Maybank Beijing will have taken on a branch manager and operational manager as well as staff in risk, compliance, finance and accounting and HR.

A spokesman for the bank was unable to comment on hiring plans. However, citing an unnamed source within the firm, Stephen He, banking and finance manager, Kelly Services, says Maybank won’t be generating a large volume of vacancies in the near future. “But there will be regular corporate sales roles, mainly with a trade finance focus due to the substantial trading volume between China and Malaysia.”

Recruitment for trade roles would fit Maybank’s business objectives. According to a statement from the firm, the Beijing branch will primarily serve Malaysian and ASEAN clients with business in China, offering wholesale banking services, such as foreign currency loans and trade finance.

Chinese candidates

Although greater China is now the third largest foreign contributor to Maybank’s pre-tax profit after Singapore and Indonesia, its profile with local candidates is low. “It has a fairly small presence here, unlike its regional competitors DBS, UOB, OCBC, and even the Philippine’s Metrobank, and Indonesia’s Mandiri Bank, who have aggressive business expansion in China. Maybank seems quite conservative,” says He.

Cherol Cheuk, general manager, Hudson Shanghai, says the skill shortage in the Chinese banking sector means having a well-know brand is a crucial competitive advantage in the job market. “Maybank is relatively low profile compared with the international banks and big regional banks that have a longer history and scale of business in China.”

She says the firm may need to spend more to attract candidates. “That doesn’t necessary need to be monetary – fringe benefits, training, and career development are counted.”

Maybank is looking at doing business with Chinese state-owned enterprises that have approval to borrow in foreign currency. If successful, this may mean it needs to hire more Chinese nationals with strong local networks. But to attract these professionals, say recruiters, it must first overcome the perception that its business in Beijing is too Malaysian dominated.

New recruits will enjoy a good view; Maybank is located in the China World Tower, the tallest building in Beijing.

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