An operations job in Hong Kong banking is no longer an obviously secure career choice.
Banks continue to build their back offices in less costly Asian markets (think Deutsche Bank in the Philippines or Standard Chartered in India), often at the expense of hiring in Hong Kong.
But while some junior processing and settlements jobs are being offshored, other more high-level back-office jobs are staying put in Hong Kong. Here’s where you’re safest in Hong Kong operations.
1. Private banking client services
“Client services within private banking has considerably job security in Hong Kong,” says James Stokes, an executive at search firm Anton Murray Consulting. “Private clients value the local experience and language skills that these operations employees provide, and the regular interaction they have with private bankers. What private banks might save in labour costs by offshoring they would lose in service levels and clients’ perception of them.”
2. ECM operations jobs in Hong Kong
“In equity capital markets operations, any offshoring away from Hong Kong requires notifying the Hong Kong Monetary Authority,” says Stokes. “This helps to protect jobs as HKMA confidentiality restrictions are sensitive and can easily be breached if the back office is moved away.”
3. Internal audit
This function is so sought-after that banks often need to hire candidates from overseas to bridge talent shortages. “Internal audit is relatively bullet-proof to offshoring as it’s stakeholder-focused and most of the relevant stakeholders are in financial hubs like Hong Kong,” says Kieran McKenna, a senior banking audit consultant at recruiters Astbury Marsden. AVPs and VPs covering the internal audit of global markets, operational risk, model risk, and commercial banking are particularly sought after.
4. Regulatory reporting jobs in Hong Kong
“The main reason why regulatory reporting positions aren’t able to be offshored is because requirements from the Hong Kong Monetary Authority and foreign regulators are always changing,” says Jack Leung, senior manager, banking, at recruitment firm Hays in Hong Kong. “So banks choose to keep these positions in Hong Kong to minimise their risk of making a reporting error.”
5. Non-performing loans administration
Corporate banks in Hong Kong are increasing their hiring of non-performing loans account managers within their credit risk departments. “Problem loans are growing for many banks due to bad debt, so these account managers need to retain close contact with locally-based relationship managers and credit approval teams to help develop strategies for recovery to profitability,” says Leung. “And given that the client base is primarily in Hong Kong, Cantonese language skills are often required.”
6. Back-office project management
As we reported last month, project management is the best paid operations job in Hong Kong, with VP-level employees earning an average of HK$1,100k (US$142k) a year. Senior candidates with a track record of implementing new business objectives in the back-office are in particular demand, says John Mullally, director of financial services at recruitment agency Robert Walters in Hong Kong. Some project managers are actually being hired to manage the offshoring of junior operations jobs, however.
7. Credit analysts
As more relationship managers join corporate banks in Hong Kong, the credit analysts who support them have also become more in demand. “Regulators in Hong Kong require banks to have a dedicated on-shore credit risk function here, especially for corporate banking businesses,” says Rouella Landicho, manager, risk, legal and compliance at recruiters Morgan McKinley in Hong Kong.
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