Moving to the mainland is still not for everyone but it’s becoming an increasingly viable option for some Hong Kong candidates.
Hong Kong banking professionals bring several advantages to mainland-based jobs, including senior-level expertise in a specific sector or product, management skills, and overall professionalism, says Cherol Cheuk, director, banking and financial services, Hudson.
They also have a “big picture” of financial services outside of traditional banking (for example, credit card services and branch transformation), says Alwin Siy-Yap, account director of risk & financial services, Idealpeople International.
But Cheuk says disadvantages exist from the bank’s point of view: above all, a possible lack of on-the-ground networks and in some cases cultural and language barriers.
Some functions are better than others
In overall terms, candidates with Hong Kong-centric experience may find it difficult to move to the mainland unless the position is highly specialised and local talent is scarce, says Siy-Yap.
Back and middle-office professionals may be best placed to make the move. Basel III, regulatory compliance, retail risk, marketing analytics, and IT transformation are in demand, says Siy-Yap.
It’s more difficult for front-office positions because they often require local or government networks, says Cheuk. But there are exceptions. Nicole Yan, senior branch manager, Manpower China, says banks in China with Hong Kong clients need Hong Kong employees for relationship management and product roles.
A Hong Kong headhunter, who asked not to be named, says he finds it easier to move senior candidates who can put their managerial, rather than purely financial, skills to good use in a growing market. But more junior Hong Kong professionals, for example those in DCM, might get frustrated by the fact that their sector is not as advanced in China.
Motivations and frustrations
The promise of wealth, power and influence, as well as Shanghai’s potential as a future international financial centre, are the primary motivations for Hong Kong candidates to move to China.
However, relocation roadblocks remain in the form of taxation and education costs. There’s also the potential frustration of dealing with a banking infrastructure that is developing rapidly but is still tightly regulated, says Siy-Yap.
Comparing the demand for Hong Kong candidates at foreign and Chinese banks in the mainland, Cheuk comments: “Local or SOE banks are also looking to hire from HK, however, it would be a lot more challenging for HK candidates to survive in a local environment due to the big gap in mentality and systems/structures.”
The China offices of foreign banks are sometimes run by China-born leaders who have spent a significant time working in the banking sector in the West. “These leaders built a culture that may be more appropriate to the modus operandi of Hong Kong candidates,” says Siy-Yap.