If you’re an Asian finance professional pondering which new skills to learn or which training courses to complete in 2015, it pays to prioritise those that are most sought after by banks in the region. You stand a much better chance of securing a promotion or career change next year if you can improve your skills to suit your bank’s headcount needs.
[efc_twitter text="Here's a selection of hot skills that will boost your banking career in Hong Kong or Singapore in 2015"].
VBA skills for the back office
“As financial institutions look for ways to increase efficiencies, prospective trade-operations staff who are VBA and Excel-macro savvy are favoured over their peers by hiring managers in Asia,” says Nicholas Lui, a banking consultant at recruiters Links in Hong Kong. “They work the most closely with the firms’ operational systems, so an understanding of VBA and macro modelling allows them to critically analyse existing systems during their regular work. Yet specialised VBA certifications are not something we see that often on CVs in Hong Kong, so they are definitely a way that you can differentiate yourself from thousands of other operations professionals,” adds Liu.
Mandarin speakers taking it to the next level
[efc_twitter text="If you speak non-native Mandarin and work in Singapore or Hong Kong, don’t underestimate the importance of improving your language skills"]. “It’s no longer surprising to see client-focused roles in Singapore that require business-level Mandarin and increasingly banking professionals are also liaising with internal stakeholders based in China,” says Bien Law, a senior consultant at recruiters Marks Sattin Banking in Singapore. “You may be able to speak Mandarin, but a quick course in business Mandarin can help ensure you use the language to better effect. And if you’re new to a client-facing role, it’s also a good idea to take a presentation or public-speaking course.”
Capital-adequacy knowledge for finance staff
“Liquidity risk management, Basel III, stress tests and capital-adequacy requirements are hot topics for finance and accounting staff within banks, because of more stringent requirements from regulators,” says Pallavi Anand, managing director of recruiters Robert Half Hong Kong. “Various professional accounting bodies such as HKICPA and ACCA provide regulatory-focused training and this typically gives you CPD credits, so you can gain both new skills and the credits required to maintain your accounting qualification.”
Project management expertise in the middle office
Work in risk or compliance in Asia and want to make yourself even more sought after? “There’s been an influx of hybrid compliance and project-management roles,” says Anand. “As banks strengthen their compliance infrastructure, they need systems to facilitate these changes. And so they also need people who understand core compliance principles and are familiar with rolling out compliance-infrastructure projects, such as surveillance systems.” Compliance officers should consider taking a PRINCE2 course or other project-management related training, adds Richard Aldridge, a director at recruiters Black Swan Group in Singapore. “And they should keep their eyes open for extra projects and internal exposure as employers favour additional ‘hands-on’ experience.”
Financial analysis skills for RMs
“[efc_twitter text="In China, we see a growing need for relationship managers in corporate banking to take on more financial-analysis responsibilities"], especially the ability to deliver credit proposals themselves,” says Justin Shuen, head of Beijing office at HR firm Talent2. “This is due to the combination of the dynamic expansion of the China market and the competitive need to decrease deal-cycle times for RMs. Therefore a course in credit analysis would likely pay quick dividends for RMs looking to advance their careers in 2015.”
Corporate bankers getting to grips IBD products
Investment-banking skills were in demand at private banks this year as they looked to cross sell IBD services to business-owning Asian private clients. Next year corporate bankers are also advised to increase their understanding of IBD products and build stronger relationships with IBD teams. “Corporate bankers with a solid investment-banking knowledge base are increasingly attractive due to the large amount of cross selling into large-scale financing in M&A, DCM, ECM, structured finance and project finance,” says Shuen. “Studying such areas could allow a senior candidate to improve their profile internally and therefore be more appealing in the job market, too.”
Non-tech staff working on IT projects
Project opportunities don’t need to be within your current job function. “A trend gaining traction is for non-technology professionals in the back and middle office to participate in new IT projects,” says Law from Marks Sattin. “Acting as a business analyst, you support the project and development teams and participate in testing new IT systems by leveraging your knowledge of the end-to-end business process. You should gain project experience wherever you can as it makes a huge difference if you’re familiar with basic project management concepts like user acceptance testing. I’d also suggest signing up for the CAPM certification and consider tackling a basic coding course.”