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Why foreign banks are crying out for risk managers in China

There has been strong demand for risk management professionals across Asia ever since the global financial crisis reared its ugly head in 2008. In China, a shortage of talent in this sector has been compounded by a scramble to support front-office expansion, according to headhunters.

The most aggressive foreign banks when it comes to risk recruitment include Standard Chartered, ANZ, and DBS.

“Banks are probably in many cases paying more than they feel they should be paying for the experience that the candidate is bringing to the table, because they are expanding their business and they just don’t want to be left behind. It’s pure supply and demand,” says Paul Aldrich, a partner at CTPartners.

He adds that the demand – which is spread evenly across the broad spectrum of the financial services sector from private to retail, corporate, and investment banks – is expected to remain strong in the long-term, barring cyclical fluctuations.

Aldrich says demand will be greatest in counterparty credit risk and operational risk roles. This is because banks will need to analyse and understand new prospective counterparties they encounter as their portfolio grows.

Banks expanding into new geographic areas will also need to understand the operational risk and regulatory environment, he says. Finally, there will also be some demand for market risk roles, as more foreign banks introduce new onshore financial products into China.

Demand has been focused on credit analysts, market risk analysts, approvers and chief risk officers, according to Kensy Sy, Beijing-based head of banking and finance for Talent2.

He says while banks are increasingly turning to local talent to fill junior/mid-level risks vacancies, there is still demand for expatriates – especially Singaporean and Hong Kong candidates – at VP-level and above. “Since localisation is getting more and more common in different sectors within the banking industry, risk management could be the last virgin land for Asian expats,” Sy adds.

CTPartners’ Aldrich says some banks may even consider hiring candidates from other emerging markets.

“Fundamentally from a risk point of view you would want someone who understands Asia at minimum. If you can’t get that, you get someone from another emerging market environment such as the Middle East or Latin America, but that would be your worst case scenario. They would want someone with Asia experience, if not China experience.”

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