The Hong Kong Monetary Authority is set to grant its first virtual banking licences later this year, creating significant demand for data scientists.
Despite being one of the top four finance hubs globally, Hong Kong’s banking sector has previously remained very traditional, but this is set to change when the regulator gives the go-ahead for the new licences.
Riley King, senior manager, digital technology and accounting & finance at Hays, expects the move to have a big impact on Hong Kong’s banking landscape.
“From a recruitment perspective, it is very exciting, as these companies will need to hire brand new teams, with roles from top-level senior c-suite and directors, all the way through to managers and associates needing to be filled.
It is going to create a huge amount of demand for new people,” he says.
King adds that the move will create significant opportunities for talents outside of the financial services sector, as the new banks will be looking for people with technology skillsets, rather than just traditional banking experience.
“They are less focused on the industry that you are in and much more focused on the skillset that you bring and your personality and mindset,” he says.
Another trend King is seeing in the wider banking and fintech sector is demand among companies for what he describes as ‘more agile candidates’.
He explains: “A lot of financial companies are looking to create more dynamic products which they can rollout very quickly.”
“Some larger corporates have actually started new companies which they are running as startups, as it enables them to have a more up-to-date company infrastructure.”
“It also changes the mindset, as if you are in a startup, you have to be prepared to work on all projects all the time, and to do whatever it takes to get a product out to the consumer.”
King adds that many of these companies are operating out of co-working spaces because it helps them to adopt a more agile and dynamic culture, as well as giving them access to an ecosystem of other companies working in new technology.
“For me, it is really exciting to see, and it is fulfiling to recruit for because, from a candidate’s perspective, you are going to be working in a Silicon Valley-esque culture and environment.”
“That really is the culture they are driving, and it is not something that we have seen before in Hong Kong.”
Unsurprisingly, all of this innovation is driving considerable demand for data engineers and data scientists.
King explains that for virtual banks, data, and how they use it, is the key ingredient that will determine their success or failure.
He says since he first started recruiting in the sector two-and-a-half years ago, he has seen the number of data scientist jobs posted online soar from just six to more than 100 now indicating strong demand in this sector.
“These are not traditionally used technologies here in Hong Kong, so finding candidates with that skillset is a bit tough and clients are open to finding them from abroad,” he says.
User interface (UI) and user experience (UX) designers are also highly sought after.
King adds that fintechs are particularly looking for candidates who are innovative and have entrepreneurial mindsets, and who are open to new things, whether this is technology or simply a change in what they are doing on a day-to-day basis.
Hays prides itself on the expertise it has in the fintech sector, which King attributes to the fact that it is very much part of the technology community in Hong Kong.
He says: “We go to and host a number of different meetup events, such as panel discussions and networking evenings. All the team members are part of the community.”
He adds that because everyone on the team is really interested in the tech space, they are naturally curious about the market, so it is easy for them to stay up to date with trends.
“A few of us are actually technical as well, which allows us to better understand both our clients’ and candidates’ needs. We are just truly passionate,” he says.
The group also takes a very hands-on and personalised approach to recruitment.
“At the end of the day recruitment is a people business and are thrilled to be at the forefront of shaping the workforce in an evolving industry. .”
King says Hays places a lot of emphasis on listening and understanding what candidates are looking for, why they want to make a move and where they want to get to in their career.
“We combine this information with our expertise in the sector and provide a consultation on the realities of the market, and insights on how they can achieve their goals.
“ We spend time talking to the candidate to help them make an informed decision that is right for them. This in turn benefits the client, as they have more invested talents, leading to a lower workforce turnover. It is a really strong partnership.”