A growing number of technologists in Hong Kong and Singapore are pulling out of hiring processes prematurely as sluggish global banks take too long to recruit them and nimble tech firms get offers in more quickly.
“Foreign bulge brackets in Hong Kong take six to eight weeks on average, from CV submission to job offers, to recruit technologists,” says Eddie Cheng, a senior manager in IT at recruiters Morgan McKinley in Hong Kong. By contrast, for tech and other non-finance firms, the whole process takes about three weeks, he adds.
While banks’ hiring time frames may not be too long in some of their job functions, demand for technologists is strong. “Despite the war for talent in tech, which is like compliance was a few years ago, many banks in Hong Kong approach tech recruitment in the same systematic way as all their other jobs – you have to jump through the same hoops,” says John Mullally, director of Hong Kong financial services at recruitment firm Robert Walters.
At the extreme end, some senior hires can drag on for up to six months, says Cheng. “I recently worked for six months on one tech role, and there were huge black holes during the hiring process in which the bank gave no feedback,” adds Matthew Caddick, managing director of recruitment agency Aptitude in Hong Kong.
US banks, in particular J.P. Morgan and Goldman Sachs, are particularly slow in their tech hiring, says a Singapore-based recruiter, who asked not to be named because he works with the firms. A Goldman technologist, who joined the firm early this year, told us he received a job offer five months after sending in his application. “I did three coding tests on three separate days, each taking about 1.5 hours, and had five interview rounds – all very spaced out,” he says. Goldman did not respond to a request to comment on its tech hiring.
As banks take too long to hire, recruiters in Asia say impatient tech candidates are increasingly dropping out part-way through hiring processes. “It happens all the time in Hong Kong,” says Vince Natteri, director of Hong Kong tech search firm Pinpoint Asia. “Banks are missing out on technologists because of their slow hiring.”
Technology firms – not just startups but the likes of AWS and Facebook – are the main beneficiaries of banks’ tardiness. “The tech giants in Singapore are very fast at hiring, and often only take two weeks from first-stage interview to job offer,” says April Jimenez a senior recruitment consultant at Huxley in Singapore. “At a tech company, hiring decisions are usually made directly by managers – not by HR, like at banks – which speeds up their recruitment,” adds Natteri.
There are other reasons why banks aren’t as speedy as tech firms. Even after a global bank in Asia has identified who it wants to hire, the local decision must then be rubber stamped by headquarters, especially for mid to senior-level jobs. This can often take two or three weeks. “The most time-consuming hurdle for banks in Hong Kong is having to get global approvals for technology jobs,” says Cheng from Morgan McKinley.
Mullally from Robert Walters says banks in Asia are hiring more tech talent “because they know technologists can give them an advantage in the future – it’s like an arms race”. “But as a result, some of their job mandates are undefined. This means that sometimes when they reach the job-offer stage banks say ‘we know this person is brilliant, but we don’t know exactly where to put them within our organisational structure’ – and this slows down the hiring process.”
Banks’ hiring is also delayed by lengthy internal discussions around job titles and team structures, says Jimenez from Huxley. “Banks are often concerned about potential office politics in the team as a result of a new hire – tech firms, less so as they have flatter hierarchies,” she adds.
While banks are aware of their hiring-speed problems and some have taken small steps to reduce timeframes (Goldman, for example, is understood to now carry out its coding tests upfront), they are unlikely to ever match the tech companies. “Banks’ attitude is ‘if the candidate is really interested in working for us, they’ll wait’,” says Caddick from Aptitude.
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