The recent bull-run of China’s stock market has prompted many banks in China to bolster their trading functions, but this has had the knock on effect of increasing demand for technology professionals in the financial sector.
“Because of the increase in front office staff, banks need more technology staff to be able to actually support their business,” says Kavi Kumar, Hong Kong-based head of technology and contracts at the recruiter Selby Jennings. “These Chinese businesses are actually quite attractive to our candidates.”
Hedge funds, investment banks and retail banks are all competing for fintech staff in China currently, says Kumar. What’s more, while bulge bracket investment banks are spending 75% of their huge tech budgets on maintenance, investment banks in China are building out trading platforms.
Stephen He, a Shanghai-based partner of the recruiting firm Falcon Talent, says: “They need people in high-frequency trading in areas like foreign exchanges or interest rates, especially those who are able to develop trading systems,” He says.
Given that a lot of banks and securities firms are building up this type of innovation platform almost from scratch, they’re often trying to hire a whole teams if possible. “A team like this usually consists of around 10 people, ” explains He, “They would hire half of them from the market and fill the rest half with internal transfers.”
China is viewed as a perfect hub for global banks to outsource their back office operations, given its low cost base and vast supply of IT talent. But this is starting to change. Lacklustre business in the past year or so has seen global banks cutting back workforce across the Asia Pacific region, whereas Chinese banks and securities firms have taken a bigger market share. Unlike their global peers, Chinese firms prefer to keep the back office operations close at home for now. “It’s their core technology, so they don’t want to outsource,” says He. “They just locate them in cities like Shanghai, Beijing or Shenzhen,” he adds.
Banks and financial institutions are also facing fierce competition from large Chinese internet companies like Alibaba or Tencent. Banks have a reputation for paying their technology staff well, but these internet giants are able to also hand out fat pay cheques to aspiring technology talent.
“We compete with internet companies which are booming in China now, so a suitable pool of IT talent for us is much more limited,” says one China-based senior HR manager at the technology department of a global bank, who asked not to be named.
A popular salary survey from the end of 2014 put most of the major positions at these internet companies anywhere between 15K to 30K RMB (US$2.4k to US$4.8k) per month. That’s already on par with most of the banks, not to mention the lucrative stock options available that can easily turn young talents into millionaires in a few years’ time.
As well as the internet giants, big vendor companies such as Accenture are also on the scene. With years of experience in dealing with global banks’ operations across the world, they are able to attract a good number of Fintech talent as well. “There’s a lot of competition from vendor companies,” says Kumar of Selby Jennings.