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State Bank of India eyes up China

Gloomy days for Indian investment bankers

Gloomy days for Indian investment bankers

Despite cautious hiring from large global banks in China, Asia’s regional banks are actively seeking opportunities.

State Bank of India (SBI), India’s largest state-owned commercial bank, intends to expand its profile in China and plans to open two new branches in Tianjin and Guangzhou.

Growth

China CEO Dinesh Sharma says that once SBI gets approval from the Chinese government, it will upgrade its now representative office in Tianjin to a fully-fledged branch. So far, its Shanghai branch employs 35 people, covering personal banking, corporate banking, trade finance, issue of guarantees, and international banking products. Sharma says upcoming hiring will focus on trade finance.

Bilateral trade between India and China is growing well, despite the global economic downturn, and hit a record US$73.9bn last year, according to official figures – a US$12.2bn increase from the year before.

SBI’s main clients are Indian companies operating in China as well as Chinese companies that trade and invest in India. There are hundreds of Indian businesses in China, many of them in the manufacturing, trading and technology sectors.

Chris Prosper, managing director of SearchBank Executive Search, says although most Indian firms in China are still relatively small, they have been reasonably successful at hiring staff in China and are rapidly growing their presence in the country.

Mandarin speakers needed

Sharma says SBI will transfer some roles from head office in Mumbai, mostly senior and technology employees, and hire both Indian and local professionals for China branches. English will be the communication language between Chinese and Indian staff, but the firm needs Mandarin-speaking local Chinese for roles that deal with local clients.

However, there are recruitment challenges. Prosper says one of the key requirements in a successful recruitment campaign is chemistry between the hiring manager and the candidate. “Rather than just looking at the nationality of the hiring manager, candidates seek to find more about the hiring manager’s personality and career background, and ask themselves the question ‘What can I learn from my future manager’,” he says.

As an Asian bank, SBI is a comfortable cultutral fit. Sharma says it is relatively easy recruiting people both from local and foreign banks. Prosper agrees: “Culturally speaking, Indian banks and companies are quite similar to China organisations in that they are both based on respect, hard work, diligence and relationships.”

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