As summer approaches, students are looking for their first job after graduation and lots of firms are busy signing contracts with local and returnee graduates, hoping they can start by August. But there’s still a big talent shortage in China and it’s not just at graduate level. Moreover, it’s particularly strong for foreign banks. Here are some reasons why.
1) Too choosy
Foreign banks often have higher recruitment thresholds than domestic ones, requiring candidates to have well balanced competences and the ability to cope with stress. For non-graduate positions they can also be more rigid when it comes to the experience level required.
2) Culture clashes
Different ways of working make it difficult for foreign banks to effectively tap the talent pool of their local rivals. Professionals who hop from Chinese banks to foreign ones can’t always keep up with the faster working pace and additional stress. One HR director, who asked not to be named, says there is a “significant gap in culture, compensation and benefits, job security and career paths”.
Foreign firms are under pressure to quickly expand their customer base and headcount. This means they only appeal to candidates who want to rapidly hone their skills at banks which are constantly pushing for better access to the local market. Chinese banks by contrast attract a greater proportion of job seekers because they offer established and stable workplaces.
4) Glass ceiling
As one employee of a foreign bank recently told me, there’s another important reason why international banks aren’t for everyone. Despite several high profile examples of local leaders, there is still a glass ceiling for many Chinese employees, especially if they want to move from middle to senior management.
Foreign banks want independent, creative and communicative graduates but the education system in China is not producing enough of them, says the HR director. Returnees from overseas universities are still needed to support growth at foreign banks but the high demand for these graduates makes them difficult to hire. Every bank wants them.
6) Too new
Underlying all this of course is the fact that the financial sector in China has only developed quite recently and has done so very rapidly, meaning that the talent pool is limited at all levels compared with more mature financial centres.
7) Language limitations
The need to have Mandarin-speaking employees means Beijing and Shanghai can’t reply on imported talent to the same extent as Singapore and Hong Kong.