If you’re looking for a new role as a corporate banker in Hong Kong, you face a rapidly changing job market in 2017.
While Western banks are paring back their hiring of relationship managers, Chinese firms – from BOCI to ICBC – are scaling up.
Here are the big hiring trends that are now shaping Hong Kong corporate banking.
The most recent “hiring boom” in Hong Kong corporate banking ran from 2010 to 2012, says John Mullally, director of financial services at recruiters Robert Walters in Hong Kong. ANZ, Barclays, RBS and Deustche Bank have since slimmed down or shuttered their corporate banking operations, while even Citi, HSBC and Standard Chartered are not hiring as aggressively as they were.
“Recruitment is still steady but the difference now is that banks are far more circumspect about who they take on. And they can afford to be – recent redundancies have increased the supply of candidates,” says Mullally. “They want RMs who already have strong revenue track records. And these days more than half the hiring is for RMs who serve large Chinese clients rather than smaller local ones.”
International banks in Hong Kong now largely “share the same client pool”, says Lilian Yeung, a senior consultant at recruiters Michael Page in Hong Kong. “This makes it challenging for RMs to bring in clients that the new employer doesn’t already have.
Seniors may be in the firing line in investment banking, but in corporate banking they remain in demand. “Compared to last year, recruitment is flat, but it’s more skewed towards the mid and senior levels – people who can run the deals,” says Anita Sim, regional head of front office at LMA Recruitment.
“Cost saving has been a major focus in 2017 as international banks hold back from investing additional headcount in Hong Kong,” says Rick Chung, a senior manager at recruiters Randstad. “Chinese banks have been bucking this trend by continuing to recruit – particularly in the mainland corporate sector – to capture more cross-border business.”
Compared to last year, candidates are now more open to moving from Westerns banks to Hong Kong or Chinese banks, says Yeung. “They recognise the trend of corporations switching to Chinese banks instead of global ones. And internal compliance is comparatively tighter in Westerns banks, which leads to heavier workloads for RMs.”
“The growing disparity in the lending powers between the Asian and international banks, coupled with slow growth at European banks, has seen many VP and SVP level candidates trade their HSBC or Stan Chart roles for positions at Chinese Banks,” says Aditya Dangi, a consultant at recruitment firm Selby Jennings.
“We’re seeing an upward trend of candidates shifting from Western banks to local and Chinese ones this year,” says Ivan Lam, an associate director at recruiters Morgan McKinley. “It’s a very competitive job market for them, so they’re increasingly offering sign-on bonuses to attract the right people. They didn’t do this much before this year.”
While Chinese banks in Hong Kong are now focused on hiring RMs to service large Chinese companies and state-owned enterprises, this could soon change. “Next year I expect them to build up their teams for mid-market and local corporates as their understanding of the Hong Kong market improves,” says Dangi from Selby Jennings.
“Product offerings in Chinese banks remain limited compared to those of international banks,” says Jack Leung, a business director at recruiters Hays in Hong Kong. “And writing credit applications in Chinese, not English, is also a deal breaker for some.”
“Due to growth of Chinese and regional banks, there’s been an increase in people from Hong Kong universities – with Masters degrees in business, economics or finance – attempting to get a foothold in corporate banking through credit analyst and risk roles,” says Dangi.
If you move banks as an experienced RM in Hong Kong, expect a pay rise of about 10% to 12%, says Jack Leung, a business director at recruiters Hays. That’s a far cry from the increments of 20% or more experienced earlier in the decade. Click here for our guide to salaries and bonuses in Hong Kong corporate banking.
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