In a bid to boost their technology ranks, recruiters at banks in Hong Kong now want to hire more tech professionals whose skills aren’t yet a complete match to the job description.
Technology is now at the forefront of banks’ local headcount plans, but their hiring is hampered by skill shortages and competition for talent from technology firms, according to 13 senior in-house recruiters (predominately from large banks) who attended a recent roundtable discussion organised by eFinancialCareers in Hong Kong.
A representative from an American bank told the roundtable that technology jobs make up the highest proportion of Hong Kong-based vacancies at his firm. His counterpart from an Asia Pacific bank – who, like all attendees, was speaking on condition of anonymity – added that about half of her non-front-office job openings are in tech.
“Not only is there more recruitment going on in Hong Kong, but the type of tech jobs is changing,” added a delegate from a European bank. “Previously, it was mainly about hiring developers in certain programming languages; now we have roles demanding more all-round skills.”
Compared with two years ago, a typical tech job description in the Hong Kong banking sector now includes a wider range of disciplines – from machine learning to cloud computing. “But because JDs in tech are getting broader, it’s also getting harder to find people who have all the skills already on their resumes,” said the recruiter from the APAC bank. “Unfortunately, many hiring managers are still demanding that we find them near-perfect candidates. Our challenge is to educate managers at our banks to be more open-minded to hiring technologists who may not have 100% of the skills right away but are proven to be fast learners.”
Several roundtable panelists said they are stepping up their efforts to convince hiring managers that talent shortages demand that they adopt a more flexible approach to technology recruitment. “If a new tech hire isn’t an exact fit, we often put them on a contract first, before we offer them a permanent role. Managers are typically more comfortable hiring them on that basis because it’s less risky – they can test the water,” a representative from a second US bank told the roundtable. “Managers also tend to be more open to these kinds of candidates if they’re grads or interns, so we’re making progress at that level, too.”
Roundtable attendees agreed that bringing more women into the banking technology workforce in Hong Kong would also help alleviate skills shortages, but they admitted that this is no easy task. “Diversity, especially gender diversity, is a big problem for banks in Hong Kong when we’re hiring in tech,” said the delegate from the second US bank. “We’re focusing our efforts on the student side, and not just at universities.”
The delegate’s bank was one of two at the roundtable that have recently partnered with Girls Go Tech, a secondary-school-based programme that encourages girls from under-privileged backgrounds in Hong Kong to pursue STEM-related subjects, including computer science. “Banks need to change the way we hire in technology, and even engage with school teachers to identify promising students,” added the panelist from the APAC bank. “In the future, banks may need to consider non-university-grad candidates for tech roles.”
The banking recruiters said they are still hiring from overseas as a short-term solution to tackling tech talent shortages in Hong Kong. Some firms are predominantly targeting Asians living abroad, while others are hiring Westerners, in particular from the UK and Australia
Luring candidates with generous pay rises doesn’t appear to be on the cards at most banks, however. “Banks in Hong Kong should try to avoid compensation in tech becoming hugely inflated like pay in compliance was four years ago during the hiring boom in that sector,” the recruiter from the APAC bank told the roundtable.
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