Foreign banks in China, although dwarfed by their domestic counterparts, are opening up an increasing number of new jobs on the mainland this year, encouraged by continued liberalisation of the finance sector.
The 41 international banks in China – HSBC and Standard Chartered are the largest – employ about 44,000 people, have a market share of under 2% and are “struggling to find and retain talent” in face of a "rapid improvement in career prospects" at Chinese institutions, according to the Foreign Banks in China report, published earlier this year by PwC.
But despite such challenges, headcounts at most foreign banks in China are increasing, say recruiters. Continued internationalisation of the renminbi and the launch of the Shanghai Free Trade Zone (SFTZ) last year – an enclave of the city, home to 12 foreign banks, where China is piloting currency exchange and other financial reforms – are creating demand for jobs, mostly in sectors where candidates are in short supply.
Here’s our guide to the roles that foreign banks in China are recruiting for right now.
Global banks are using the Shanghai Free Trade Zone to carry out more structured trade finance deals, making candidates with trade-finance product-design or deal-origination experience in high demand, says Emma Charnock, regional managing director of recruiters PSD Group. Banks face talent shortages in this sector and are offering base salary rises of between 20% and 30% to lure trade-finance people. “Banks who’ve just launched sub-branches in the zone and are determined to develop this business are willing to pay the bill,” she says. For senior trade-finance roles, however, banks are relying on internal transfers, adds Peter Chong, associate consulting director at search firm MRIC Group. “And I expect most roles in the SFTZ will be filled by Chinese nationals.”
Under pressure from regulators, global banks are hiring more China-based asset-liability managers. “The regulators also want to learn from these ALM experts, work with them to turn Shanghai into a top-tier financial centre,” says Jason Tan, a partner at search firm Being & Associates in Shanghai. The ideal candidate should already be working in ALM and also have 10 years’ trading experience, an understanding of Chinese treasury-market products, and a maths or science Masters degree, he adds. Not surprisingly, such people are almost impossible to find, so banks are also hiring traders who want a career change, as well as qualified accountants with a CFA, a “risk control mindset” and the ability to interact well with the front office.
Chinese policymakers are looking to use securitisation to shift risk away from the current banking system and are piloting a programme allowing foreign banks to package loans into collateralised loan obligations (CLOs) for sale to other financial institutions. “Taking advantage of this newly proposed initiative, a number of foreign banks are now seeking DCM professionals in China to help them originate and distribute CLOs and gain an early-entry advantage,” say Simon Lance, regional director of recruiters Hays in China. With DCM pros thin on the ground in the mainland, some banks are training their corporate relationship managers to take up these roles, while others are relying on Hong Kong- and Singapore-based DCM staff.
As China eases currency-trading restrictions on the Renminbi, many banks are “upskilling” their existing corporate relationship managers to become cross-border specialists, while also looking for new RMs with international skills, says Lance. “It is expected that there will be more new stimulus being rolled out for companies within the Shanghai and Shenzhen free trade zones to encourage them to invest and generate returns from overseas market. Banks in the zones will try to capture this market and therefore bankers with the ability to make overseas investments will be in good demand.”
As we noted last month, compliance pros are hot property in Singapore and Hong Kong, with banks offering big salary increases to poach them from competitors. Demand is similarly high in mainland China, especially for those with anti-fraud and anti-money laundering skills, says Thomas de Mendonca, director of recruiters Michael Page in China. “Regulations change frequently here, often without warning, so candidates with an ability to react to what regulators want, particularly those who are adept at a communicating directly with regulators, are most required. And an increasing number of foreign financial institutions that are now coming under the supervision of the China Banking Regulatory Commission, including banking, leasing and auto financing firms."
Foreign banks in China are also hiring credit analysts. “There is a high degree of global and local pressure on non-performing loans, defaults and fraud. This means firms are enhancing their credit teams to conduct robust reviews, with tighter controls on issuance of credit,” says de Mendonca. Demand for credit analysts is also fuelled by the growth of China’s middle class, which means an increasing number of Chinese citizens are seeking credit approvals for the first time, he adds. Regulatory, as well as analytical, skills are essential in this job.