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Branch opening bonanza in China creates skill shortage

Last month, HSBC and Standard Charter both opened new branches in Nanjing and Qingdao respectively. ANZ plans to set up 20 in China within the next three years.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg in a country which is experiencing a rapid growth in new branches as individuals and businesses develop a stronger need for banking services.

“Chinese and foreign banks are rolling out more branches to keep the growth momentum going. Having branches in rural areas supports the expansion of infrastructure and small businesses,” says Rio Goh, manager of Michael Page Financial Services.

People who manage client relationships and the operational side of the business – such as branch managers, deputy managers, relationship managers, clerks, private bankers and service staff – are sought after at branch level.

In addition, some banks are carrying out nationwide graduate recruitment campaigns. China Everbright Bank, for example, has hundreds of openings for its Shanghai suburban branches.

There is a definite talent shortage because all banks are hiring and most job functions do not have a large enough pool of professionals. Compensation for branch managers has increased over the last year because of this skill shortage, says Goh.

There are differences between branch job openings and headquarter vacancies, according to one bank HR professional, who asked not to be named.

“In headquarters we hire more for new product development roles and for managers, which require more than three years’ experience in similar functions and professional certificates like CPA, CFA and FRM. But for branch openings, we need more marketing and sales people, most of whom can be fresh graduates,” he says.

However, adds Goh: “Branch managers do not necessarily aspire to get head office roles as they are good at what they do, which is managing a profitable branch, people and regulatory relations. They might see a move to head office as a step up, but their skills and experience have become highly sought after.”

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