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ANZ and CBA hit the talent trail in China

ANZ and Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) may have been slow off the starting block in the world’s biggest emerging market, but recruiters say they are now aggressively taking on talent in a bid to catch up with more established foreign banks in China.

ANZ, which last year opened its first rural branch in Chongqing, has said that it aims to boost its current network of two branches and a representative office by opening more than 20 new branches by 2012. Last year, bank officials said headcount in its retail banking business in China may multiply by more than 10-fold to over 500 by 2012.

Meanwhile, CBA has recently launched a joint-venture life insurance partnership in China with Bank of Communications.

ANZ has been “aggressively building” in Asia, especially since Mike Smith, the former HSBC chief executive, became its CEO in 2007, says one headhunter who asked not to be named. “You’ve got somebody who is running that organisation whose understanding of Asia is very strong.”

That sentiment is shared by Odilia Poon, Shanghai-based operations director for managed services Asia at recruitment firm Talent2.

“The global banks like HSBC or Standard Chartered are bigger and they’ve been in China for longer, so they have more established teams. With the Australian banks, they don’t have quite the history in China, so their teams are newer, but they are expanding quickly to make up for that,” she adds.

Poon says Aussie firms are expected to focus on hiring staff to expand their commercial banking and high-end wealth management services, across the front, bank and middle offices.

The preference is for candidates who are local Chinese, but who have either worked or studied outside China, and have a good understanding of how business is done in developed countries like Australia. A good grasp of English is a must, according to Poon.

Emma Charnock, regional director for Asia at recruitment firm Hays, says Australian banks are currently focussed on hiring corporate banking relationship managers and credit risk professionals.

She adds that compared with other foreign and local lenders in China, candidates could find that Australian banks have a stronger focus on work-life balance, as well as a flatter organisational hierarchy.

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