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You have just been “upgraded”: Someone cheaper, more junior, and yes, more capable has stolen your job

Downturn or not, financial firms regularly cull their bottom performers and replace them with better people. But at the moment these so-called “upgrades” seem to be forming the bulk of recruitment in Hong Kong.

Warwick Pearmund, senior consultant, equities, Advantage Professional, explains: “Pretty much every hiring manager I speak to says hiring this year is likely to be limited to upgrade or replacement roles as opposed to expansion. In the current environment where market volumes are low, you need employees to bring in revenues. If someone isn’t performing, letting them go in November would preserve the bonus pools for performers and new headcount.”

Senior folks are especially vulnerable

The jobs that are susceptible to being upgraded are typically senior, front-office positions. However, letting go of MDs may not necessitate the hiring of even more expensive talent. Relatively junior (and cheaper) professionals who can deliver either in terms of revenue generation or client coverage could come on board instead, adds Pearmund.

Banks are receptive to staffing these upgraded jobs with candidates who have been laid off from other firms because even top bankers have been axed over the last few months. But as he observes: “People are perhaps more trapped in their verticals than before; firms want people to be able to generate revenue and hit the ground running. It’s a question of fit – if a retrenched sales person can offer client coverage that a firm doesn’t already have, then the employer could certainly be open to hiring.”

If you have recently been hired as an upgrade in this exceedingly tough job market, congratulations – but there will be no resting on your laurels. “There’s just no room for non-performers, whatever your role is, you’ve got to start performing from day one.”

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