Cautious hiring in Hong Kong throughout 2013 has left some HR teams with unexpected leeway to add more staff, and optimism for 2014 is even seeing the first signs of expat packages being brought back.
Emma Charnock, MD of PSD Group in the city state, said this week that her firm had seen a 20% increase in the number of bank jobs in the past four weeks.
“We are also seeing very positive signs about 2014. This is very different to the end of last year, when no clients wanted to talk about hiring in 2013.”
Charnock said part of the sudden flurry in hiring activity might be that recruiting teams hadn’t used up all their budget for 2013 and were thus trying to make last-minute hires before the year-end.
Better sentiment in Hong Kong was being driven by recent good export figures coming out of mainlaind China, that country’s decision to lift its IPO freeze, and the number of Chinese companies doing cross-border deals.
A sign of the return in confidence may be seen in the return of expat benefits. Charnock said relocation packages “are creeping back in”, but total compensation was now being structured differently. Large bonuses, for example, were no longer on the cards, she said.
Christopher Aukland, regional director of Michael Page in Hong Kong, agreed that there was a more positive outlook in the financial services market in the city as economies in the US and Europe stabilised.
Most of the hiring activity was still focused on private banking, insurance, Hong Kong banks, Chinese banks, and credit and rating agencies. The most sought-after candidates were auditing professionals, particularly IT audit roles, within global markets, corporate banking and retail banking businesses.
"Cost pressures are curbing recruitment and intensifying the war to secure the best talent in 2014 as Chinese institutions push into the private banking market and rating agencies look to expand their Asia operations."
Aukland added that increased initial public offering activity had created high demand for associate level originators and execution roles in investment banking.
"Hong Kong will continue to be an attractive market for international investors looking to invest in the Asia region in 2014 as it is the most active market for IPOs, one of the largest asset management centres in the region and second largest economy in Asia in terms of market capitalisation as of the end of July 2013."