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Shanghai hiring skyrockets as Stan Chart leads commercial banking boom

Poaching, counter offers, hiring spikes, huge salary rises and severe talent shortages: no, we’re not talking Wall Street in 2006 – this is now and this is Shanghai. Foreign commercial banks in the Chinese city are engaged in what recruiters describe as a recruitment “boom” (at a senior level at least). Now there’s a word you won’t have heard in a while.

Standard Chartered is the “most aggressive hirer,” according to three headhunters who asked not to be named. Citi and HSBC are not too far behind, while ANZ is also becoming a serious player in the Shanghai employment market.

“There is a massive hiring spree in Shanghai for front-office roles, with the overseas commercial banks leading the way. Vacancies are up roughly 60 per cent over Q1. Volumes started to rise at the end of Q2, as the Chinese economy rebounded, and they have recently picked up even more,” says Jason Tan, manager of commerce, finance and banking at Robert Walters.

Relationship mangers who can sell to corporate clients are at the top of everyone’s hit list. “Banks want revenue generators. The market is recovering but they still have stringent hiring criteria. Candidates must have a track record and be able to bring clients with them immediately. There’s no time to train people, banks want immediate delivery,” adds Tan.

This means recruitment is focused at the leadership-level. Tan says senior RMs with experience and clients in three key sectors – state owned enterprises, PRC-based multinationals and Taiwanese companies – are most in demand.

For commercial banking RM roles, in contrast to many investment banking jobs, firms prefer candidates who are already working in the mainland, rather than overseas-based Chinese.

“The perception now is that locals with multinational experience in China are highly valued. International experience isn’t valued as much as it once was. A Chinese national who’s currently in New York doesn’t necessarily understand the local market.,” says Brodie McDougall, manager, Michael Page in Shanghai.

Local candidates who have worked for other international banks in the mainland are highly prized. “They have best of both worlds – Chinese networks and experience with how a Western firm is run,” adds McDougall.

Shanghai offices of international banks therefore prefer to poach from each other, which keeps the talent pool small. “The candidate shortage is very apparent, and all the banks are trying to retain staff as well, so we’re seeing counter offers,” comments Tan.

He estimates that about half of all candidates receive counters and half of these people accept them. This is driving up salaries for new recruits, with increments of between 30 and 50 per cent now common. In Q1 this year, you’d be lucky to get 15 per cent.

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