As foreign banks in China compete for a limited number of suitable candidates, it’s becoming more difficult for them to retain staff because job seekers are moving to competitors to give their resumes a short-term boost.
“Branding is exceptionally important to the Chinese, so working for a top international firm here only increases an individual’s marketability. However, be aware that local employees look to add global brands to their CV in order to increase their market value, even if the time spent at the organisation was very short lived,” says Sarah Jones, manager Shanghai, Antal International.
All recruiters in China bemoan the lack of banking professionals with the two main attributes required by foreign banks: international knowledge and the ability to work at a local level. This puts some candidates in good position to pick and choose who they work for.
Job seekers are looking for the strongest foreign employer brands in which to build their careers. In the competitive world of commercial and retail banking, Citi, HSBC, Standard Charter and ANZ stand out as solid yet expansionist firms, according to one recruiter who asked not to be named.
Jones adds: “Chinese bankers are shrewd – they know what they want. The foreign banks need to learn from them in order to know how to attract the best people, but more importantly, how to keep them.”
Competition for executives is tough. Foreign banks either pay generously or risk losing their best people. Jones says she has seen the level of counter offers almost double in Shanghai since the start of 2011. Retention is clearly a priority.
“It’s vital to supply potential employees with a clear career path. One has to take into consideration that a large proportion of Chinese candidates are looking for better opportunities and more money,” adds Jones.
She advises: “Banks should also look to offer local employees or returnees ‘perks’ that increase their level of commitment – really give them something that they want for their future like grants to help care for elderly parents, or schooling assistance, or private tuition to those with children.”