Meet the Hong Kong banking professionals getting 50% pay rises

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Hong Kong Dollars

If you want to know who’s been getting the hefty pay hikes at your bank over the past 12 months, speak to the people developing your software.

We looked through the new Hong Kong salary survey from recruiters Robert Walters to find out how base salaries in 2018 (we averaged out the low and high pay marks) compare with those in 2017 across 21 financial services technology job functions.

Like most non-tech positions at banks, jobs in the ‘infrastructure and cyber security’, and ‘project and change management’ categories suffered stagnating pay year on year in Hong Kong.

By contrast, salaries shot up in all nine ‘application and development’ job sectors, as shown in the table below. Most dramatically, average pay for testing and product-specialist roles rose by 50% and 38% respectively. While the table contains figures in the five-to-eight-year experience range (typically VP level), the Robert Walters data for more junior and more senior developers reveals a similar upward trend.

A hiring boom and a shortage of local tech talent are driving compensation higher. More developers in Hong Kong are taking advantage of the tight job market and are moving banks, securing salaries that would take them years to achieve if they stayed put.

Banks in Hong Kong increased their hiring of developers last year, a trend that looks set to continue. Trading systems are a particular focus: Credit Suisse doubled the size of its derivatives IT team in 2017, while this year Societe Generale is hiring C++ and Java developers to support its in-house trading platforms.

As banks in Hong Kong plough money into electronic trading and other front-office-facing systems, the development jobs created tend to “sit with the business” rather than offshore in India or other lower-cost markets, says Vince Natteri, a director at IT search firm Pinpoint Asia. “It's quite hard for a machine learning programmer, for example, to be based elsewhere if the trading team is in HK. There’s only so much you can achieve via video conferences.”

Recruitment is also on the rise in digital consumer banking as banks – including HSBC, Citi and Standard Chartered – develop mobile apps to compete with online lenders like Alibaba, which are muscling in on their market.

All banks, however, face skills shortages because the local talent pool has not expanded quickly enough to meet demand. Hong Kong has traditionally been a sales centre rather than a technology hub for banks and tech firms alike, while computer science has lagged law, finance and medicine as a degree choice for elite students (and their parents).

“If you’re a developer in Hong Kong, 2018 is looking like a good year to be searching for work. Supply vs demand is in your favour as many banks are hiring,” says Natteri.

Image credit: CvE

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