A worsening employment market and redundancies in the financial sector have transformed the expectations and behaviour of employees in Hong Kong and Singapore. Compensation was once widely seen as the biggest determining factor when moving firms, but that’s no longer the case.
John Mullally, manager, financial services, Robert Walters Hong Kong, says: “The main concern candidates now have isn’t about bonuses – it’s job security and career advancement that are the key drivers. That’s a big change from just 18 months ago when remuneration would have been the biggest consideration by far.”
Better the devil you know
In the last three to four months Mullally has seen candidates turn down good job offers and pay increments because they fear being ‘last in, first out’ and find comfort in the stability of their current role and the existing relationships they have with management.
Get real on bonuses
Mullally reckons candidates are generally realistic and have lower expectations of upcoming bonuses because profits and revenues are down. “I would say set the bar low in terms of your expectations – in many cases bonuses may be zero. It’s not a direct reflection of your worth to the business or your performance and you aren’t going to be the only one in that boat.”
Take a pay cut
Professionals who have been made redundant in the past half year have become more receptive to accepting wage cuts. Gary Lai, managing director, South East Asia, Charterhouse Partnership, knows of candidates in support functions and sales-related positions, who will accept less pay as long as the dip isn’t too extreme.
“It’s a tough market now for financial services. Most professionals would rather take a job with a slightly smaller salary than be unemployed. That said, anything more than 15 per cent will require more consideration because once compensation goes down, it’s not so easy for it to get back up to your previous salary levels.”
However, senior professionals at director- and MD-level especially within the investment banking industry, are unlikely to consider pay reductions, even if they have been laid off, he adds.
On the flip side, candidates from banks which are more stable and less exposed to European risk would demand a “risk premium” to incentivise their moves into seemingly less secure firms. Lai says these increases can range between 18 to 30 per cent and the expectations for such increment amongst this group of candidates is likely to continue in the near term.