Guest comment: City needs linguists

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Heidi Collins, manager of the financial services division of specialist multi-lingual recruiter Euro London Appointments on why it helps to speak in many tongues.

If you're an overseas national with perfect English as a second language, now is the time to be seeking work in the City of London. We're currently experiencing a major shortage of people with language skills associated with India, China, Russia and other Asian and emerging markets.

The feeding frenzy is being partly driven by the increasing restrictions on listing on US exchanges, with the result that many companies are now opting to list in Europe as an alternative. Some of the major exchanges are promoting themselves in new markets, leading to a need for business development managers who speak Russian, Mandarin and Cantonese.

London's growing hedge fund community is also looking for multi-lingual candidates. The level of technical understanding needed within the hedge fund sector for example demands a bilingual speaker at the very least and more often than not a national.

Both hedge funds and long only managers are looking for marketing staff to approach the growing domestic investor bases in the 'BRIC' countries of Brazil, Russia, India, and China. Both UK and US firms are investing in an Asian "face" - US house Drake Management, for example, already has a bi-lingual Japanese/English website with Chinese and Korean languages due to be added this year.

At the same time, investment banks such as Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse have all set up local operations in Moscow, leading to a need for Russian speakers.

More than anything, however, the demand for linguists is a reflection of overseas investment opportunities. The inflow of foreign investment into China is encouraging demand for speakers of Mandarin and we see Hindi as an increasingly important language for the future as the Indian market develops.

An indispensable route into the UK market is proving to be the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP) - a government scheme that allows migrant workers to live and work in the UK without an employer needing to sponsor a visa - has been vital. Additionally, as many MBA programmes now come with an automatic HSMP visa, UK employers are increasingly looking at overseas MBA graduates as a source of new talent.

The challenge is clear - we live in a shrinking world where being able to understand the needs aims and motivations of a customer base that spans the globe is vital. And that means that languages and intercultural skills - and the demand for mother tongue level ability - will continue to grow in importance.

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