The employment market in Hong Kong isn’t as hot as it was in the first half, but it certainly hasn’t ground to a halt either, according to delegates at the recent eFinancialCareers recruitment roundtable.
In a typical seasonal slowdown, the number of new vacancies in Hong Kong is now lower than in Q1 and Q2, said the panel of senior in-house HR professionals at leading international banks.
But private banking is bucking the trend, in a big way. “Direct hiring is ultra competitive at the moment. Buying out bonuses isn’t the problem; the main difficulty is finding people,” commented one attendee, all of whom asked not to be named in this report.
Such is the talent shortage that the wealth management arm of one large firm is now considering candidates who don’t have a private banking background.
The bank’s roundtable representative remarked: “We are looking at i-banking and corporate banking candidates and have made some successful hires. These people know CEOs, they know the right type of potential clients.”
But convincing investment bankers to change careers can be challenging because they are traditionally better compensated than private bankers.
“In private banking, everyone is looking for the same talent at the same time, so closing people is also problematic. Speed is becoming more important because of counter and multiple offers.”
Very annoying analysts
It’s not only senior private bankers who are keeping the Hong Kong market interesting. There’s a strange trend emerging at the junior end too, as one roundtable delegate explained: “The amount of first-year analysts that we are losing makes my jaw drop. In Hong Kong, people will even leave during the first six months of their training. Their attitude is ‘unless I get what I want, I’ll move. Pay me what I deserve, or I’m out the door’.”
The attendee added that turnover rates on his firm’s three-year traineeships are so high that the bank poaches analysts from its rivals to replace them. “I don’t think young people can handle the idea of a programme which lasts for a whole three years in one company. This is a troubling development.”
Some of those who move to other banks remain as analysts, but others are bumped up to associates after just 18 months at the lower level.
“The question is, do we halve the timespan of graduate programmes in order to help retention? But that affects quality. You get people who only have half the knowledge of our platform and products, and who don’t really understand what it takes to be an investment banker.”