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Nine wonderful ways that Chinese banks try to retain staff

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Mainland Chinese and local Hong Kong banks have been expanding in Hong Kong for several years, picking up talent as Western banks made redundancies and cut back recruitment.

But with some global financial institutions now looking to rebuild their headcount in the territory, Chinese banks in Hong Kong are suddenly being forced to focus on retaining their staff.

“We know there’s a danger soon that some of the people we’ve hired will be tempted to leave us,” said a representative from a Chinese bank who attended a recent eFinancialCareers roundtable for senior HR professionals in Hong Kong.

Here’s how, according to roundtable attendees, Chinese firms are aiming to retain bankers as competition for their skills heats up in Hong Kong.

1) Career development

At Chinese banks this is definitely not just another HR cliché. Junior bankers in Hong Kong and China want career development opportunities above all else – and they want them set in stone. “To retain the best people, we need to give them a clear roadmap of where they could get to in two years, in three years, in five years,” said one of the roundtable delegates, all of whom asked not to be named in this report. “They ask us about career development in interviews; they ask us throughout their career,” she added.

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2) Stability

“We have employees who used to work for global IBDs but came to us after the financial crisis and have stayed with us because we offer a stable platform for their careers,” said a Hong Kong roundtable attendee from an investment bank. “For them, pay is not the only issue; they want to work somewhere where they feel more secure about their jobs.”

3) Counter offers

Chinese employers don’t shy away from this eleventh-hour retention tactic, but they won’t usually raise your salary to the level the new employer is offering. “We instead point out the career-development advantages of staying with us and the risks of joining a new employer,” said an HR person from a private equity firm.

4) Entertainment

Having corporate-mandated fun is serious business in China. “Since we increased our entertainment budget our turnover rate has fallen,” said the private equity representative. Her counterpart at a Chinese bank said her firm often invited employees’ family and friends along to staff parties to increase their sense of “belonging” to the organisation.

5) Cash for kids

Unlike their Western counterparts, Chinese banks don’t focus their family-friendly policies on providing childcare facilities and encouraging flexible working (Hong Kong’s legion of live-in maids largely take care of bankers’ babies). But while you won’t find any Morgan Stanley-style lactation rooms at Chinese firms, you might get a “baby gift” – this means a cash payment, HK$3k per new-born at one bank.

6) Holiday help

Here’s another example of “family friendly” not just being about mums and babies. HR teams at Chinese banks have a list of family occasions – such as the university graduation of an employee’s child – which warrant an extra day’s leave on top of the annual allowance.

7) Birthday bonuses

Birthdays need not be celebrated with a crummy cake from your colleagues. Staff at one Chinese bank receive a small cash bonus just for being a year older (the firm also pays out for marriages, family funerals and on Chinese festival days).

8) Medical insurance

Healthcare is costly in Hong Kong, so medical insurance matters to most employees. “We have now extended medical cover to the immediate family of our junior staff,” announced a representative from an investment bank at the roundtable. “Not many firms do this at that level.”

9) Mobility

With Mandarin-language skills and mainland market knowledge becoming all important in Hong Kong banking, Chinese firms are increasingly moving bankers from Shanghai and Beijing to staff up their Hong Kong offices. “Relocating or seconding mainland Chinese people means they can learn new skills in Hong Kong, which is a much more mature and international market – mobility is an important tool for us,” said the investment banking HR person.

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