If you’re after a quick-fire pay rise or promotion in the Hong Kong finance sector and you aren’t averse to gambling with your long-term career, you might want to hand in your notice purely as a means to snare better terms from your current employer.
More than a fifth of finance professionals (22%) in Hong Kong have resigned without a new job offer in a bid to get a pay rise or promotion – a much higher ratio than in Singapore (12%) or China (4%), according to a recent eFinancialCareers survey.
“Using resignation as a negotiation tactic isn’t very professional, but candidates in Hong Kong tend to be more money-driven than in other financial services markets, so unfortunately it happens quite often here,” says John Mullally, associate director, financial services, at recruiters Robert Walters in Hong Kong.
Tendering a resignation unsupported by a new offer is “far more prevalent” among junior finance professionals, says James Carss, managing director Asia at Dryden Human Capital in Hong Kong. As we reported earlier this year, analyst and associates are in high demand and short supply in Hong Kong.
“Sometimes juniors would rather resign than have a discussion with their manager on why they feel undervalued – there are more roles out there for them should things go wrong with the resignation. By contrast, senior candidates generally have better ethics and integrity, and more to lose in terms of their family commitments,” adds Carss.
Unsupported resignations are also a more common ploy among disgruntled Hong Kong employees. “It’s a risky move, so the ‘push factors’ – such as an extreme work-life imbalance or lack of career progression – must be very strong to motivate someone to do it,” says Scott Cheung, managing consultant, corporate banking, at recruitment firm PSD Group.
Hong Kong finance professionals, however, don’t seem to think that resigning is a risky negotiation technique: 63% of survey respondents in the territory believe their boss would “care about” their resignation. “This comes from a mindset of always expecting more and being willing to take risks,” says Christine Wright, Asia managing director of recruitment agency Hays. “They feel entitled to better pay and conditions, and see themselves as valuable to the company and in a strong position to negotiate.”
Bosses will try to stop you from resigning largely because of the negative consequence for them. A tight labour market (32%), good working relationship (29%), increased workload for the boss (18%) and the cost of attracting new talent (17%) were the top reasons why survey respondents thought their manager would care if they quit.
“It often takes three months to hire and another six to get the new person up to speed. During these nine months, the manager and the team are doing work which they would rather be delegating,” says Mullally from Robert Walters. “Hiring someone with the right skills and experience in Hong Kong isn’t easy.”
It’s not only revenue-generating bankers whose resignations are causing managerial headaches in Hong Kong. Recruitment and retention are particularly challenging in “ultra-competitive” middle-office job markets like compliance, in which managers face an “uphill battle” to keep their teams intact, says Chris Jackson, associate director of risk at Pure Search in Hong Kong. “Managers sometimes think selfishly about a resignation, focusing on how the increased workload will impact their team – they will try every trick in the book to keep you from leaving,” he adds.
Managers in the Hong Kong finance sector also “care” about your resignation because they are increasingly being appraised on their staff retention rates, says Kate Harper, an associate director at recruiters Eximius Group in Hong Kong. “And when someone leaves, achieving sign-off for a replacement hire can be challenging right now. The loss of a team member, even if they’re not a high performer, risks the actual high performers moving on due to unachievable workloads.”
With managers in Hong Kong focused on retention, it’s little wonder that 78% of the survey respondents said tendering their resignation to negotiate a promotion or pay rise at their current employer actually worked. But while resigning can bring short-term benefits, on eFinancialCareers tomorrow we reveal the potentially dire consequences it can afflict on your career in the long term.