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120 sacked HSBC technologists must stay in Hong Kong banking or face 20% pay cuts


The 120 technology staff recently laid off by HSBC in Hong Kong should look for jobs at other large banks in the city – or face pay cuts of about 20% in the corporate sector.

HSBC made the redundancies earlier this week as part of a cost-cutting drive announced in 2015 that aims to eliminate about 25,000 jobs globally by the end of 2017.

Banking tech recruiters in Hong Kong say some of the affected employees, who supported HSBC’s retail operations, have already been in touch.

“One advantage is that they invariably have a three-month notice period – HSBC’s standard – but are now immediately available and would have been paid three months’ salary up front,” says Vince Natteri, a director at search firm Pinpoint Asia in Hong Kong. “So they could benefit financially in the short term if they find new jobs soon.”

But to maintain their HSBC salary levels over the long haul, they would typically need to stay within the banking sector. With the expectation of tech giants like Google – which are unlikely to hire them – corporate sector employers in Hong Kong are typically less generous paymasters than large banks.

“While it depends on the exact role, most developers are looking at a 20% pay cut for moving to the corporate sector. For senior guys, it could be more,” says Natteri.

However, finance sector IT jobs will be more difficult to secure because other banks in Hong Kong are also cutting non-front office facing tech roles, or offshoring them to cheaper markets like India.

“Customer engagement, via digital and mobile applications, is an exception – it’s at the forefront of transformation efforts at banks in Hong Kong,” says Warwick Pearmund, an associate director at Harvey Nash Executive Search. “Anybody with experience in this space will find a role, either in banks or in one of the IT outsourcing companies that they use.”

Other former HSBC techies may need to retrain to make themselves more appealing to large commercial banks in Hong Kong such as Standard Charted, Citi, Bank of China and Bank of East Asia, say recruiters.

“Those who’ve been doing jobs that are more specific to HSBC – like mainframe and COBOL roles – are probably looking at a longer wait before they find a job at another bank,” says Natteri.

“These candidates will likely need to learn a more widely adopted language like Java J2EE – almost every bank uses that,” he adds. “For someone who has a programming background or a computer science degree, it’s relatively easy to learn J2EE.”

If you worked in an infrastructure position at HSBC, you are advised to add cloud technologies to your CV. “Knowing Windows Server alone isn’t enough. You’ll need to understand virtualisation and cloud technology – Amazon Cloud, Azure or other platforms,” says Natteri.

Image credit: Zero Creatives, Getty

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