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Banks tighten their belts on expat packages

Compared with moving to Hong Kong or Singapore, going to China is (rightly or wrongly) still considered a hardship assignment for some foreign bankers.

However, their employers don’t necessarily agree – they are becoming increasingly picky when it comes to deciding who gets lucrative expatriate pay packages.

“Some banks do still offer expat packages these days, but it often depends on the seniority of the candidate. The market has changed over the last couple of years and so the fact that a role may be based in China for example, doesn’t necessarily entitle someone to an expat compensation package,” says Richie Holliday, managing director for Morgan McKinley in Hong Kong.

The banks which are still relatively willing to dole out expat deals – paying not only higher salaries but also providing allowances for housing and children’s education – tend to be the large global banks such as Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse, Morgan Stanley, and HSBC, according to recruiters.

There is no uniform policy amongst financial institutions as to the level when an expat package is offered. While in some instances it may be at director or VP level, the decision is often made on a case-by-case basis, depending on the availability of talent and the individual concerned, says Holliday.

“In the future, banks are likely to get even choosier in paying out expat wages, as local indigenous talent for even niche finance roles becomes more widely available, and living standards in cities such as Shanghai and Beijing continue to rise,” he adds.

Jason Tan, manager for banking, commerce and finance at Robert Walters, says foreign investment banks are more likely to pay expat packages than their retail and commercial counterparts in China. Banks are usually more willing to pay expat wages for jobs that are in relatively high demand, such as risk management, compliance, and investment banking front office roles, he adds.

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