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Aussie candidates set their sights on Hong Kong

After a GFC-induced slump, many Australian financial services professionals are once again looking for jobs overseas. London remains the destination of choice, but with Asia leading the employment market recovery, Singapore and Hong Kong are catching up quickly.

In a new report from Marks Sattin, two thirds of the 2,095 accounting and finance professionals surveyed said they would consider moving internationally for a suitable role.

Scott Stacey, managing director, Marks Sattin Australia, says the high level of support for relocating is interesting, considering that only last year a wave of expats returned home following redundancies overseas, and many foreign economies continue to struggle.

The UK remains the most popular destination for Aussies, according to the survey. “This has not really changed since 20 years ago when I qualified as an accountant. Going there is still a traditional right of passage. Hong Kong and Singapore are the other dominant markets,” adds Stacey.

Australian candidates increasingly want to benefit from Asian economic success by forging their careers in these two banking hubs. “Their potential prospects in Singapore and Hong Kong are a lot better now than 10 or 20 years ago. Plus they’re attracted by lifestyle factors such as the easy availability of home help,” says Stacey.

Asian attractions

Andrew Brushfield, director, Robert Half, says working in Singapore or Hong Kong will be just as beneficial to your CV in the long term as London. “But as regards international exposure, Shanghai is not quite there yet,” he adds.

Compensation is another Asian attraction. A new report from Robert Half found that 53 per cent of financial services staff in Australia received a salary rise over the past year, on a par with Hong Kong (54 per cent) and Singapore (52 per cent).

However, Brushfield believes the two Asian centres should soon pull ahead of Australia when it comes to pay levels and increases.

“When the market rises in Asia, it spikes much higher than Australia. I expect Hong Kong and Singapore to be massive draws for candidates over the next two years. They also have much lower tax rates, and they are genuinely international markets,” says Brushfield.

Of course not all job functions in Asia are open to Australians or other Western expats. Prior Asian experience will give you a much better shot at landing a front-office role. For first-timers to the region, your skills should be: a) in demand; and b) transferable cross border. Recruiters in Asia often cite product control, risk and internal audit as positions where foreigners are needed to fill local talent shortages.

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