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Foreign commercial banks expand into rural areas but face strong local competition

Bank of East Asia’s recent branch opening in Shanxi echoes a series of expansions into rural areas by foreign banks such as HSBC, Standard Chartered and Citibank.

These firms are creating relationship manager, sales, compliance, transaction banking, micro lending, credit and risk jobs.

“For their rural branch recruitment at GM level foreign banks will transfer talents from headquarters, but for middle-level positions they prefer people with retail banking experience. There’s a shortage of talent in tier-three and four cities, so foreign banks find it a challenge to relocate people to rural regions,” says Sophia Zhang, consultant, Antal International.

In order to attract the right candidates, foreign banks must offer creative employment packages, and be committed to regional expansion, adds Graeme Read, Antal International group managing director.

While traditionally foreign banks have paid better, domestic firms are starting to compete with them on compensation.

“It’s like a race between foreign and domestic banks to set up operations and take their products and services into the rural areas. I think it’s easier for domestic banks because they understand the local people better than foreign banks do. However, to gain an advantage, all they need to do is hire the right staff,” says Read.

Kyle Qin, associate consultant, SHfinder, says high-speed trains are making it easier for bankers based in first-tier cities to commute into outlying areas.

“People go to work for the weekdays and come home on weekends. Most are 40 to 50-year-olds who are in the right age group for a second career breakthrough.”

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