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There is a (very) serious shortage of RMs in Chinese commercial banking

Few would dispute that the war for talent is alive and well in China’s banking industry, so much so that many banks have few scruples about hiring candidates whose skill sets and experience are not an exact fit for the role.

It is not unusual for investment bankers to be hired for private banking jobs, or retail bankers for wealth management roles.

One exception to this is in commercial banking, where expansion by both international and local banks has driven up demand for relationship managers (RMs), according to recruitment firm Adecco’s Shanghai-based associate director Charles Gao.

Despite the shortage of qualified candidates, banks have so far resisted hiring from other job functions for commercial banking RM roles, in favour of tapping the overseas talent pool, says Gao.

“In Shanghai, where there is a very limited talent pool for relationship manager candidates, we are seeing banks approach candidates from Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan or even the US and UK,” he adds. Banks are looking for candidates who speak Chinese, are familiar with Chinese culture, and have the ability to develop good networks.

Callan Anderson, group general manager for recruitment firm Gemini Personnel in Hong Kong, agrees that banks are being picky about the types of candidates they are looking for – and for good reason.

“There’s a lot of people out there who say they are really good at banking and finance, and claim to have the right experience. When they are hired, the bank finds out they are not as well qualified as they say they are. Banks want to make sure the people they are hiring have the right pedigree or background,” says Anderson.

However, he expects that banks will relax their hiring requirements for RM in the next six months as the talent market becomes increasingly tight.

Gao says the most aggressive RM recruiters include Standard Chartered, Bank of East Asia, DBS, Deutsche Bank, Citi, ICBC and Bank of China. Stand Chart alone is reported to be hiring an additional 1,000 staff in China this year, half of which will be RMs, he adds.

Gao expects demand for RMs to grow as banks in China continue to launch new financial services products. Those who jump ship may be offered base pay increases of up to 30 per cent.

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