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Product control: banks in HK are so desperate that they’ll even hire from the West

If you’re a product controller in Hong Kong or Singapore and want to move banks, employers and recruiters will be grovelling at your number-crunching feet. Your stroll to a new role will only be interrupted by the odd counter offer or two.

There is a limited supply of professionals in this job function because the skills required are niche and not readily transferable, says Vivian Ng, division director at Robert Half Singapore. “Candidates meeting the requirements are not easily available either due to a lack of relevant expertise, or inadequate experience,” she adds.

The financial crisis worsened the skill shortage as banks cut back staff training, thereby limiting the junior talent pool in product control, comments Ng.

At the senior end, product controllers are now becoming interested in moving into other functions – including business management, project management, valuation and risk – which further diminishes the candidate base, according to Amy Ho, manager of banking and financial services recruitment at Ambition in Hong Kong.

Credit and rates specialists are particularly hard to source in Hong Kong, says Ho. “Hong Kong is the hub for equities products in Asia, hence there are far fewer candidates with solid credit and rates knowledge in this market,” she explains.

But there are now signs that banks are becoming slightly more flexible about who they hire in an attempt to overcome the supply challenges. They are: considering overseas candidates with product skills from Western markets; training junior to mid-level professionals from Big Four accountancy firms; and moving people internally from other product areas, or even other functions, such as market risk.

“However, the banks are not yet pushing up salaries significantly as they prefer to try their internal transfer strategies first,” adds Ho.

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