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Are foreign firms in China guilty of talking up their hiring plans?

Whenever foreign banks in China announce aggressive future hiring targets in China, many in the industry ask whether the numbers are grounded in reality, or just wishful thinking. After all, banking is a sector constantly suffering from a critical shortage of talent.

A case in point occurred earlier this month, when the chief executive officer for Société Générale in China, Jackson Cheung, said the firm wants to increase its 700-strong mainland headcount to between 1,000 and 2,000.

This is part of a plan to grow Soc Gen’s branch network in China to 50 in three to five years’ time. Currently the bank has only seven offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Wuhan, Guangzhou, and Tianjin.

But will Soc Gen actually be able to expand its workforce by up to 1,300 people?

Laurent Tison, the firm’s head of communications for Asia Pacific, says the appeal of the Soc Gen’s universal banking model, which it is replicating in China, will help it attract enough talent to fuel its aggressive expansion plan.

“We offer our candidates the opportunity for growth, geographic mobility, and diversity of jobs that would otherwise be unavailable to them at other banks in China. We do recognise that there is a war for talent out there, but we believe that our image of a ‘talent factory’ will drive us in the right direction towards the talents that we are targeting,” adds Tison.

However, at least one recruiter specialising in banking and finance has doubts whether the French bank will be able to meet its hiring targets.

“It sounds like it’s just for PR. The government will make you follow the rules, and I haven’t seen any foreign investors get that many licenses [to open so many branches] in such a short period of time,” says the recruiter, who asked not to be named.

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