Aiming to achieve balanced growth between rural and urban areas, the Chinese government is planning to increase the number of rural banks over tenfold to 1,027 by 2011.
This potential in this sector has attracted leading international banks to open branches in small towns and villages, but the bulk of employment demand is still to be cultivated. There are nearly one billion farmers in China who currently have little access to financial and loan services.
Since the China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC) revised regulations to allow foreign banks to operate in rural areas at the end of 2006, firms such as HSBC, Standard Chartered, Citibank, ANZ and Rabobank have been stepping up their expansion, especially in central and western areas, such as Inner Mongolia and Xin Jiang Uygur Autonomous Regions.
However, because those banks have just entered the market, and rural banking as a whole isn’t incredibly profitable just yet, the demand for recruiting financial professionals remains limited.
Moreover, although foreign banks have sophisticated hiring capabilities – including attractive graduate programmes – finding suitable candidates can be a challenge in the remote rural areas.
“Some key talents actually have greater trust in their local bank rather than a foreign bank, especially because of the global financial crisis. And in many situations it is tough work to recruit good talent for foreign banks,” comments Mark Hall, operations director, Greater China at Kelly Services.
Most junior to mid-level staff at the foreign banks are recruited from local commercial banks, post saving banks and credit co-operatives, or they are fresh graduates from local universities. Senior staff are usually transferred internally from regional headquarters, such as Shanghai and Beijing.
Some roles do not require a profound knowledge of finance. “I doubt the hiring managers from those foreign bank look too seriously on the relationship manager’s qualifications, instead of his or her local network and stability,” says Stephen He, banking & finance division senior consultant at Randstad China.