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Chinese internet companies move into lending, pay top dollar for platform developers

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China is deregulating it financial services sector at an unprecedented pace, with traditional institutions now facing direct competition from foreign banks coming into the market as well as companies from other, non-financial, sectors looking to tap into a lucrative lending segment.

A recent Wall Street Journal article reported that Beijing was changing the rules to allow firms that fall outside the conventional financial services spectrum to enter China’s banking system. Alibaba, which dominates online shopping in the country, along with Chinese internet search engine giant Baidu and internet conglomerate Tencent are just a few of the new players in this market.

And, say recruiters operating in the region, they are prepared to pay top dollar to attract the heavy hitters to help them achieve their financial services ambitions.

Shanghai-based Larry Wang, CEO at recruiter Wang and Li Asia Resources, says these internet companies are increasingly regarded seen as attractive places to work. “They are seen as industry-leading platforms with a reputation for being highly competitive, entrepreneurial, and providing an appealing hybrid between a multinational corporate environment and a fast-growing Chinese firm with global aspirations.”

Wang says 95% of employees his firm places in middle to senior management at the big Chinese internet companies, such as Baidu and Tencent, have previously worked at multinational corporations.

Candidates must have Chinese language skills and a track record of China: “Chinese nationals are most in demand, both ‘homegrown’ and mainland returnees. Hong Kong Chinese or Taiwanese candidates with the language skills and experience are also competing for roles, and they have been able to secure jobs.”

Historically, China paid foreigners more than its nationals, but Wang says that this has changed, and compensation is now approaching that paid in other markets. Still, he cautions, this does not mean the return of the cushy expat package as employers are increasingly recognising that the growing capabilities of mainland professionals has removed the pressure to hire foreigners, and at a premium.

As a result of the newly established competition in China’s banking sector, Morgan McKinley manager Vicky Wang expects to see a shortage of suitably qualified candidates for the payment and banking sectors.

She believes that salaries in China lag Hong Kong and Singapore, but she is seeing signs of positive change for candidates, with local Chinese companies established on the mainland paying 10-to-20% more than multinational corporations that have entered the country.

The best-paid jobs – sometimes as much as 20% above market for other IT-related positions in banking – are in online payment and transactions. These business areas are targeting product developers and developers who can build these platforms. 

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