Despite Hong Kong and Singapore being better known as financial services hubs, there is a view in the West that firms with international ambitions must be on the ground in China. More and more financial institutions are opening offices in China and looking to recruit key staff.
Some view Beijing as the best place for businesses to locate their first office in China as it provides links to key decision makers in government, industry and financial regulation. Other employers choose Shanghai for its reputation as a powerhouse of industry as well as its recently announced plan to develop into a dedicated financial services hub.
But whether it’s Beijing or Shanghai, there are several trends in China’s employment market that are likely to emerge during the rest of 2010.
For financial services professionals interested in developing their careers in China, there are a lot of opportunities within corporate finance and M&A. This demand is driven by Chinese businesses which have been looking to IPO, but have had insufficient opportunity over the last two years because of unattractive market conditions.
Chinese nationals with M&A experience who can display strong networks of contacts, as well as experience of taking large businesses to market, are proving more popular than ever and are in a strong position to compete with candidates who have overseas experience.
Demand for compliance and regulatory professionals is also strong, due mainly to the tighter focus on financial controls and regulation.
Associates set to shine
There should be good opportunities at the mid to senior associate range, a level which suffered from redundancies and a lack of expansion in 2008 and 2009. Many professionals in more senior roles in China were retained during the global financial crisis, absorbing work left behind by departing colleagues at the more junior level.
As Asian markets become more prevalent in driving revenues globally, we are likely to see more Western professionals considering China as the next step in their careers. This is not expected to damage the flow of expatriates to either Hong Kong or Singapore to any great extent because both of these locations still have a lot to offer ambitious professionals.
In addition, expatriates already in Singapore and Hong Kong might find themselves considering a move to China now, which would not have been the case four or five years ago when the employment market was not as attractive.
Richie Holliday, managing director, Morgan McKinley Hong Kong