If you want a Hong Kong banking job where big pay rises are still likely despite China’s stumbling economy, try becoming a…contractor.
We’ve looked at maximum 2016 annual base salaries for VP-level Hong Kong finance professionals (people with about five to eight years’ experience) across all permanent and contact job functions in a new survey by recruiters Robert Walters. And we’ve compared these to the equivalent 2015 figures to find the jobs that have enjoyed the largest year-on-year pay rises.
Of the 12 roles in the table below, eight are contract jobs. In a reversal of recent trends, pay rises for contractors now typically exceed those of permanent staff, including for people in the same function. For example, pay for VP-level contractor fund accountants jumped 12.5% between 2015 and 2016, but their permanent counterparts received a rise of under 3%.
While contracting vacancies have been inching up for about two years in Hong Kong – a city that traditionally lacked a large contracting market – pay rises around the 10% mark were rare until now, with employers able to hire unemployed candidates willing to take contract roles as a last resort.
In the past six months, however, several global banks (Barclays, BNP Paribas, Deutsche Bank and Standard Chartered, for example) have begun new rounds of restructuring in Asia. Securing approval for permanent hiring, which adds to banks’ headcount costs, has therefore become more difficult, say Hong Kong recruiters. Banks are now bringing in even more contractors to fill urgent back and middle-office openings, which is pushing up rates for contractors but ensuring costs are kept off the books.
Trade support contractors, benefiting from banks’ ongoing focus on transaction banking in Asia, have seen their pay shoot up the most – by 20% – albeit only to HK$720k (US$92k). Regulatory reporting is also a good role to work in for money-motivated contractors – pay is up 16.7% on the back of a continued skill shortage of accountants equipped to deal with a rising regulatory burden.
Not all the Hong Kong banking jobs with the biggest pay rises are contract roles, however. Within asset management – a sector we’ve tipped to generate more jobs this year as more Chinese money flows into Hong Kong – permanent pay for equity researcher rose an impressive 14.6%.
It has not been a great 12 months for base pay for permanent staff in front-office investment banking – salaries stayed steady in equity capital markets and fell slightly in debt capital markets, according to Robert Walters. VPs working in mergers and acquisitions fared better – their maximum salaries rose 6.7%. Asia Pacific (ex Japan) targeted M&A exceeded the US$1.00tr mark for the first time in 2015, while China M&A also had its highest year on record, according to Dealogic.
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