Foreign banks in China are recruiting in two main areas this year: commercial-banking sales and risk/compliance. But they face salary inflation and stiff competition for staff.
“The demand for talent continues to exceed supply as the banking sector expands,” says Jimmy Leung, PwC China banking and capital markets leader. “There is direct competition between foreign and local banks and amongst foreign firms themselves." According to the PwC report, Foreign Banks in China, which Leung co-authored, foreign banks intend to raise their combined mainland headcount from about 35,000 last year to around 55,000 in 2015.
International banks particularly want commercial-banking relationship managers. “Most banks will be looking to front-office sales to bring in more revenue as that is what will determine business growth,” says Alistair Ramsbottom, managing director of Shanghai search firm The Blacklock Group.
“Sales roles are in strong demand,” agrees Flora Shi, senior consultant, Morgan McKinley Shanghai. “In a global recession every bank is trying to secure and maintain both new and existing clients to the largest possible extent.”
While Western giants Standard Chartered, HSBC and Citi will hire relationship managers this year, smaller Asia-Pacific firms like Hong Kong’s Bank of East Asia, Singapore’s DBS, and Australia’s ANZ will be “just as aggressive”, says a Shanghai recruiter who asked not to be named.
Shanghai-based David Koo, associate director at search firm Profile Asia, says branch openings in so-called second- and third-tier cities like Chongqing and Tianjin are helping to fuel sales hiring at commercial banks. Skills shortages in these centres are particularly severe because the banking sector is underdeveloped and salespeople from Shanghai and Beijing are reluctant to relocate.
Across China, salary rises for salespeople joining foreign banks are typically high – 30 percent is considered normal. Ramsbottom from The Blacklock Group reckons foreign banks also need to entice candidates via increased responsibilities, faster promotions, and better benefits and allowances.
To widen the candidate pool, banks sometimes recruit candidates with transferable sales skills from insurance, asset management and trust firms, he adds.
Regulatory-related roles are also sought after. PwC’s Leung explains: “Regulators, as usual, are putting a strong grip on foreign banks, for example on their wealth-management products and fee-based services, hence there is a high need for legal and compliance experts.” Shi from Morgan McKinley adds: “Risk management is the number-one concern among all banks now due to regulatory requirements and the need for risk mitigation.”