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When talent’s short and (getting) expensive, mainland banks shop overseas

Bankers in China are in a rather enviable position, especially those with at least a decade’s worth of experience under their belt. And a growing number of mainland roles are opening up for Mandarin speakers from other Asia countries.

Bankers in China are now increasingly calling the shots when it comes to compensation.
Kensy Sy, head of practice, banking, Greater China, Talent2, has seen emboldened candidates in China, ask for “a 30 per cent salary increase, minimally.”

The current situation facing banks in China is summed up by a recent Reuter’s headline which declared: “Global banks face ‘pay up or lose talent’ war in China.”

Andy Bentote, managing director, north and eastern China, Michael Page International explains: “International finance in Shanghai and Beijing is a relatively new phenomenon. There is not enough history of people being brought up through the ranks, so firms are quite reliant on outside talent.”

Demand is most evident for front-office roles such as relationship management, although compliance, risk and product control jobs are also seeing demand, say recruiters.

Apart from the mainland, here’s where else banks are looking at in their quest for senior-level talent and why you should be interested.

Hong Kong and Singapore

Both cities are generally the first port of call when it comes to hiring for mainland banks at the senior levels. Broadly speaking however, firms tend to bring in bankers internally from these two cities, says Bentote. “This person is then tasked with grooming a local successor over the next few years.”

Malaysia and Taiwan

Yes, you heard right. While not the usual suspects for sourcing foreign talent, looking to these two countries makes good business sense. Sy explains: “Some of the large banks are looking to Taiwan and Malaysia to fill roles as these countries have candidates that speak Mandarin and salary levels are also usually lower [compared with Singapore and Hong Kong].”

Moreover, Sy says banks looking to expand in second and third-tier Chinese cities like Chonqing and Dalian, generally find Taiwanese and Malaysian candidates “more open” to moving there than candidates from Hong Kong and Singapore.

So if you are a banker in the Asia-Pacific region, why should you hotfoot it over to the mainland?

Bentote sums up the pros:

· Pad up your CV with attractive China work experience.

· Challenge yourself in a dynamic, fast-changing environment

· Potentially work in a larger role than previously

· Compensation may also be an issue but some banks will equalise after-tax salary. (Taxes on foreigners in China are fairly high — up to 45 per cent in Shanghai.)

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