Being bilingual has always been an asset, but Japan-based bankers who’ve put in the effort to learn another language could well have an even greater edge in 2010.
“The talent pool has been reduced by this crisis – as many candidates left Japan – and banks want the maximum bang for their hiring buck during this value-conscious market, so locally-available bilingual candidates should benefit accordingly during 2010,” says Pete Millett, director of recruitment firm People Services International.
Kirstin Duffy, managing director of Morgan McKinley Japan, adds: “Previously, senior professionals could get by with basic language skills, but looking ahead to next year we expect a greater focus on learning Japanese.”
2009 saw financial control teams hit by a double whammy of downsizing and an increase in reporting requirements that made workloads heavier. Things though could be looking good for accountants in 2010 because firms will need to strengthen or grow their financial control teams, says Kevin Naylor, team manager of the financial services division at Wall Street Associates.
“On top of this, we are already getting more requests from our clients in functions such as credit and equity analysis, not to mention investment banking, for candidates with strong accounting backgrounds,” add Naylor.
There are also expectations that through 2010 the focus on internal control and risk management will start to come back. “As the market stabilises, we are seeing less focus on survival and more on areas in which risk may have crept into the business due to neglect or under-staffing. Firms will need good auditors and operational risk analysts who often come from an accounting background.”
Finance project managers
The quest to improve control functions could also be good news for finance project managers. “Demand is likely to increase for finance project managers in 2010 as firms prepare for IFRS implementation and work to improve risk and control functions throughout their organisations,” says Clive O’Brien, manager, financial services at Robert Walters Japan.
Hiring at US firms that received government bailouts
They survived thanks to government money, now the bailout banks need to grow again. “Many US firms who received government bailouts cut too deeply globally during this crisis, and now that they have returned their government loans, and with business growing again, they have indicated that they will actively hire during 2010 to catch up. This is especially the case in Asia, which is their growth engine globally,” says Millett.
The road to recovery could be a long one for insurance firms as they look to develop new product strategies. “Many of the foreign insurance companies had focussed their strategy almost entirely on the variable annuity business, which was dramatically affected by the global financial crisis. As such many firms are struggling to realign themselves in new product classes and are unlikely to have a good 2010,” says O’Brien.
With a bad rep that could take a long, long time to shake off, expectations are for a grim year for structured products, too. “With these complex and often opaque and little understood products directly tied into the recent crisis, it is difficult to foresee a return to glory days anytime soon for this product area with investors. Hence, hiring is expected to be light,” comments Millett.
The plight of structured products won’t be good news for quants. “Exotic and structured products are not being traded at high volumes or really built at all right now and demand should still be slow through much of 2010. With this in mind, firms should not need to hire the high-powered mathematicians they have in past years to build complex models to measure risk or track the performance of these products,” says Naylor.
And this will likely be compounded by firms having pulled much of their decision making back to head office. “They will likely manage these complex products from more centralized locations as scrutiny will be high,” he adds.
With heavy losses and widespread lay-offs, 2009 was a rough year for Japan’s consumer loan firms. And 2010 doesn’t look like it will be the year the sector bounces back. “Changes to Japanese consumer loan laws have severely squeezed loan company profits, and economic instability has severely squeezed loan company cash flow and hence their abilities to offer loans. No loans extended equals no profits, equals no need for new hiring,” says Millett.