I work for a big European bank in Hong Kong. After nine years in the job I’ve had enough and I want to join an American firm, preferably J.P. Morgan. Why leave when I’ve successfully moved up the ranks to VP level here? For starters, my bank has been through some rough times globally – and I’m not talking 2008; I’m talking now.
People have been made redundant in Hong Kong, while others have left in frustration. And there’s obviously been a lot of water-cooler speculation about the future of the bank. I’ve been more fortunate than many of my peers because I’m still here, but my long-term career prospects at this bank have recently diminished. Previous talk from HR about job mobility and international assignments have gone out the window.
I’d like to move into a new job function, in Hong Kong or elsewhere, but I can’t see any opportunities here. While things aren’t as bad as they were in 2016, the bank still isn’t doing as much hiring – internally or externally – as it used to. Recruitment is still focused on anti-money laundering and compliance, and until very recently there was a policy that for every two people who left, only one could be hired to replace them.
In this kind of environment, managers and HR clearly aren’t in the mood to discuss career changes – they want us to just get on with your current jobs. Moreover, the redundancies and the dearth of replacement hiring have increased my workload. I don’t have set hours anymore and I can’t delegate very easily; I just stay in the office until the work is done.
The bank’s recent troubles have also affected my job function in a more specific way. In theory, I’m tasked with developing innovative financial products for clients in Hong Kong. But everyone is more risk adverse and nobody is as interested in new product lines.
Managers are scared of signing them off and it’s difficult to set up the internal conversations I need. My team and I feel fatigued by the never-ending product hurdles we must overcome.
The big job cuts may be over for now, but for many staff the perception of our bank has been irrevocably damaged. The feeling is that we’re no longer a market leader as an investment bank; we’re just trying to stay alive. Product-wise, we’re certainly falling behind the competition, especially Asian banks, US banks and even the fintechs.
I’ve only just started my job search, but I’m definitely targeting US banks. I can see, for example, that Citi and J.P. Morgan are investing a lot more in their technology operations in Asia than my bank is – and this directly benefits people in their product teams.
But I think my decision is mainly based on personal experience. I’ve worked with many J.P. Morgan employees over the years and they’ve always impressed me more than any of their counterparts. JPM, therefore, is at the top of my list.
Winton Cheung (we have used a pseudonym to protect his identity) works for a European bank in Hong Kong.
Image credit: LewisTsePuiLung, Getty