Mandarin is fast becoming a lingua franca in Hong Kong’s finance sector. Candidates who can only speak English and/or Cantonese are being frozen out of much of the job market.
But in which job functions within financial services is Mandarin most sought after?
To find out, we looked at 18 key job sectors in the eFinancialCareers CV database and worked out the proportion of Hong Kong-based candidates in each one who speak Mandarin fluently (as a first or additional language). The results are in the table below.
You are increasingly unlikely to get a client-facing finance job in Hong Kong unless you know Mandarin. For example, as investment bankers focus on helping expansionist mainland companies make overseas acquisitions, 76% of Hong Kong-based M&A professionals on our database are fluent in Mandarin. Junior IBD analysts we spoke with previously at global banks in Hong Kong anecdotally put the percentage of Mandarin speakers among new graduate intakes at up to 80%. They say mainlanders are being recruited at the expense of Cantonese-speaking Hongkongers.
The growth of Chinese investment banks such as CITIC and China Securities in Hong Kong has contributed to the relatively high Mandarin percentage in capital markets. In these firms – which are now starting to dominate equity capital markets league tables in Asia – Mandarin is spoken internally among employees in Hong Kong, not just when dealing with customers in China.
At 70%, the Mandarin ratio in equities doesn’t bode well for Western salespeople and traders who have been laid off following sweeping equities job cuts at banks such as Credit Suisse and Deutsche Bank.
The percentages are also high on the buy-side. The Hong Kong private equity sector, which tops our table at 78%, is driven by investments into high-growth mainland companies. Meanwhile, after recent influxes of Chinese accountants into Hong Kong, the proportion of fluent-Mandarin accounting and finance resumes stands at 67% on our database.
Hong Kong’s private banking sector is partly, but not exclusively, focused on serving Chinese clients – and its 63% Mandarin mark reflects this. The city is also a base for non-resident Indian private banking, for example.
Compared with the same survey last year (see the third column of the table), Mandarin percentages for most job functions have increased. Compliance is up by eight percentage points year on year, reflecting the growing importance of China’s rapidly changing regulatory regime on Hong Kong’s finance sector.
Unsurprisingly, operations jobs – which demand comparatively little client interaction – sit toward the bottom of our table. Banks in Hong Kong employ technology staff from around the world – only 39% of them are fluent in Mandarin, according to our CV database.
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