As you prepare to search for work in Hong Kong banking next year, what kind of job market are you likely to face? We’ve spoken to several finance recruiters in the city and identified some of the most sought-after banking jobs and key career trends for 2016.
1. MD will find it tough to land new jobs
Several banks in Hong Kong, in particular Standard Chartered, Barclays and Deutsche Bank, used the fourth quarter to cut directors and managing directors. “These senior candidates will face a difficult time securing new positions in 2016, which will also cause downward pressure on salaries,” says Dean Stallard, regional director of recruiters Hays in Hong Kong. “There will be pockets of hiring within regional banks, but overall market sentiment is taking a dip.”
2. Global banks in Hong Kong will struggle to retain analysts in 2016
“There will be even more attention on how to retain analysts in investment banking. Banks in Hong Kong are losing grads at an increasingly worrying rate as many are less prepared to put in the time required to progress their careers in IBD, while the hours and pressure are proving a turn-off,” says John Mullally, director of financial services at recruitment firm Robert Walters in Hong Kong. “Most banks have increased analyst salaries and put restrictions on hours, but it hasn’t stemmed the tide of departures. Be prepared to see more of this in 2016.”
3. Boutiques will swoop for bulge bracket staff
Jefferies is set to expand its M&A advisory business even as it cuts less profitable sales and trading positions. Recruiters say boutiques like Jefferies will be well positioned to poach staff next year as many global investment banks will remain in cost-control mode. “While boutiques have yet to make the same impact in Hong Kong and Asia as they have in the US and Europe, they are gearing up in their hiring,” says Mullally. “It will be interesting to see whether they are able to get a slice of the action outside the mid-market space.”
4. Outstanding management accountants will be wanted
“Banks in Hong Kong will look to upgrade their management accounting teams to become a more strategic ‘finance partnership’ function,” says Amy Ho, director of banking and financial service at recruiters Ambition in Hong Kong. “Banks are no longer looking for the typical management accountants who focus solely on historical data analysis. Next year they will be more interested in more high-calibre candidates who can give insightful market, competitor, and product analysis and provide business-centric recommendations and strategies.”
5. Banks will create even more contract positions next year
The contractor market in Hong Kong banking has been buoyant for about the past two years, but 2016 could see it grow at a faster rate. “With continued economic uncertainty in China and firms like Standard Chartered and Deutsche Bank announcing job cuts, banks in Hong Kong are finding it increasingly difficult to get new headcounts approved. As a result, I expect to see an increase in the demand for contract workers in the coming year,” explains Ben Tang, client solutions director of banking and financial services at recruitment agency Randstad in Hong Kong.
6. Analysts will be hired to cover Chinese tech companies
In 2015 several senior bankers moved to corporate development roles in expanding Chinese technology firms. Next year banks will want to hire more analysts into their equities teams to provide more in-depth coverage of the mainland tech sector. “In particularly, there will be a lot of demand for internet analysts as these firms seek to expand,” says Adam Jeffes, manager of financial services at recruitment company Morgan McKinley in Hong Kong.
7. Chinese banks will search for credit risk professionals
“The number of non-performing loans has been increasing, creating a challenge for some Chinese corporate banks,” says Stallard from Hays. “This will cause more demand for credit risk approvers in risk management departments and also for credit analysts who sit within frontline business teams and perform more stringent credit assessments of new clients.”
8. Subject matter experts will be sought after in audit
Internal audit has been a hot job sector for several years, but in 2016 recruiters say banks will increasingly be bringing in experts from other functions to add expertise to their audit teams. “Candidates with strong product and business knowledge in treasury markets, trade finance, corporate banking, and global markets will be in significant demand,” says Ho from Ambition.
9. The back-office will stay depressed
Hoping for an end to the recent offshoring of Hong Kong operations jobs to China and other lower-cost Asian markers? Unfortunately the trend is only set to continue in 2016, says Crystal Shum, consultant, banking and financial services, at recruiters Links International in Hong Kong. She says any hiring in operations next year will be focused on replacing staff who leave – banks won’t be adding much additional headcount.
10. Banks in Hong Kong will still need to recruit internationally
Despite the perpetual drive to recruit Mandarin speakers into client-facing roles, banks in Hong Kong won’t be reducing their global recruitment in other functions next year. “When recruiting technical experts and people with niche skill sets, banks will likely look overseas if the local market doesn’t deliver enough quality candidates,” says Adam Johnston, managing director of recruiters Robert Half in Hong Kong. “We’re actually seeing a noticeable internationalising of the banking workforce in Hong Kong.”
11. Distressed debt expertise will be in demand
“Credit and distressed debt investors within hedge funds and private equity firms will be in demand,” says Mullally from Robert Walters. “There’s a lot of money on the sidelines right now waiting for defaults in China and the opportunity to buy assets at a significant discount to market. Candidates with strong credit skills, an understanding of Chinese and international bankruptcy laws, and experience in operating within the debt space in China will be sought after at international investment firms.”
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