I believe the main area of hiring for the rest of this year and beyond will be asset management. Many RMB fund build-outs are taking place right now, which creates a need for experienced portfolio managers, specifically those with a China RMB-fund focus. There will also be further demand for asset management professionals with a fixed-income focus because of changes in regulatory requirements. While it may not seem a sexy asset class in this market, companies will need to expand further in Asia as the focus now is weighted too much on equities.
Oil and gas traders
Oil and gas traders are still in demand, especially in Singapore, which attracts these professionals from abroad. There has been some interest in shifting strategic talent from management consultancies into oil and gas research roles as the workforce becomes scarcer.
In times of safe-haven investment, clients give their fund management to the top custodian houses, and there will be an increased need for talent in global custody this year. This means firstly that custodians need to better understand Asian risk and they need to hire capable Mandarin speakers in global/regional risk roles. Secondly, with the PRC fund industry still growing, bilingual talent in client-service management and asset-servicing sales will be in high demand in China.
Overall, I believe we’ll also see demand for bilingual compliance professionals, especially those who have an understanding of the local regulatory environment. These people will, however, be expected to be able to assist organisations, not only from a compliance perspective, but also from a strategic business-partner perspective. Many of course know how to read the manuals, but only a few can give advice to the business on how to handle the regulatory changes and on how to see potential alternatives.
Where the shortages are
China in particular doesn’t have enough custody and client-services talent, from both a technical and competency perspective. The APAC region lacks people with an understanding of how to manage client relationships competently. Hiring managers from the big four auditors, who have strong exposure to investment management, may help to address this.
There is also a continuing shortage of individuals in physical commodities. With further expansion in Asia, there’s a clear trend to hire from US-, UK- and Swiss-based commodities firms. I often see team moves and firms poaching aggressively in this area.
From experience, at least in asset management, good people with consistent track record can rarely be convinced to move to new firms. Generally in financial services, top performers are hard to shift if you can’t provide them with the right level of commitment.
In other areas, like operations in Singapore and Hong Kong, banks continue further outsourcing of functions towards India, Sri Lanka etc. Salaries area sliding and as one executive once told me recently: “The banks don’t cut away fat or muscle anymore; they go to the bone in order to save costs.”
Marc Baloch, market leader, financial services Asia, Futurestep