The dramatic effect of Chinese banks’ aggressive hiring in Hong Kong has been laid bare: financial services job vacancies in the city surged in the final quarter of last year, according to a new survey.
There were 78% more open roles in the Hong Kong finance sector in Q4 2017 than in Q4 2016, Morgan McKinley’s APAC Employment Monitor reveals. “The rapidly growing influence of China on Hong Kong’s financial services market has been a boon for the island’s banking and financial services sector,” says Richie Holliday, chief operations officer of Morgan McKinley Asia Pacific.
Chinese banks have been bulking up their ECM teams, for example. Led by China Merchants Bank, CICC, and China Merchants Securities, mainland firms took seven of the top-10 places for 2017 Hong Kong new-listing ECM volume by bookrunner, according to Dealogic.
But most of their hiring has been beyond the front-office. As they win more business from Chinese companies listing or expanding in Hong Kong, they are also recruiting Mandarin speakers for risk, compliance and back-office roles, say local recruiters.
Chinese financial institutions now also have enough room to house their new hires. As Western banks have increasingly vacated expensive office blocks in Central over the past two years, mainland ones have moved in. When UBS relocated from Two ifc, China Minsheng Bank became the next occupier. In the neighbouring tower, China Orient Asset Management took over a tenancy from ING.
Not all of the vacancy increase can be pinned on Chinese firms, however. The fourth quarter of 2016 was a particularly slow one for recruitment in Hong Kong finance as many global banks trimmed their local workforces in areas such as equities. The year-on-year rise in the survey appears dramatic partly because it comes off a low base.
Meanwhile, many of the jobs that opened up in Q4 2017 were to replace staff who left, rather than to add extra headcount. Candidates were departing roles in greater numbers in 2017 compared with 2016 as confidence in the job market and Chinese economy returned, say recruiters. This was even the case in Q4, traditionally a quiet time for moves because of the impending bonus season. There were 56% more candidates (people applying for Hong Kong-based finance jobs) year-on-year in Q4, according Morgan McKinley.
And let’s not forget 2017 hiring at Western banks in Hong Kong – headhunters in the territory agree that it was up on the previous year, especially for private banking and technology jobs. Credit Suisse, for example, was hiring developers in bulk to support its derivatives business, while HSBC expanded its digital banking team. UBS was among the more aggressive recruiters in wealth management as it kick started a plan to take on 100 new relationship managers in Hong Kong by 2019.
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