Hardly a week goes by in China without some mention of the internationalization of the renminbi (RMB) — China’s currency.
The internationalization of the RMB is in full swing, and this means a lot of moving parts for banks in Asia. “Trade settlement, financing and borrowing, and payment and capital management are some of the RMB business opportunities we see in the wake of RMB globalization,” says Datuk KH Cheong, CEO of Greater China and general manager of the Hong Kong branch at Maybank, the largest bank in Malaysia. At present, Malaysia is the largest trading partner with China among ASEAN countries.
Both global and local banks in Asia are stepping up efforts to get prepared for this wave and this has created new job opportunities. “Putting in place a strong RMB capability remains a key strategic objective to us,” says Ian Massey, head of talent acquisition at Standard Chartered.
StanChart launched the Renminbi Globalization Index (RGI) in November 2012 to closely monitor the rise of RMB-related business across the globe. In its latest release on 10 March, the index went up 2.3% — the fastest in eight months.
At the moment, Hong Kong still remains the world’s biggest RMB offshore centre — and banks need a presence there. Clifford Lee, Head of Fixed Income at DBS, reveals that his origination and sales teams across the region have been growing in size in the past few years as the bank continues to make strides in the offshore RMB bonds space. In addition to offshore RMB bonds, the teams also do USD and HKD deals.
Barbara Liu, Maybank’s head of human capital for Hong Kong and China, says: “We are building our internal capabilities on all fronts as well as hiring from the open market to ensure that we are well prepared for the growth in RMB business.”
The need for seasoned bankers
Massey of StanChart says that those being hired into the RMB teams are “seasoned bankers who possess the necessary skills and expertise across areas like transaction banking, corporate finance, credit and lending” and it’s even better if this experience can be combined with a “strong client-coverage background”, because they are the ones who need to “have meaningful dialogues with our CFO and CEO clients”. They need to be “all rounders”, he adds.
Liu also says that Maybank is looking for client facing bankers with an innate ability to understand and build relationships with our customers. She says these bankers should also have a good understanding of credit and risk.
Apart from Hong Kong, some other major cities like Singapore, London, Taipei and even Frankfurt are are all vying to grab a bigger share of RMB. Recent data from payment company SWIFT shows that RMB has entered the top five of world payments currencies, just after US dollar, Euro, British Pound and Japanese Yen.
The rise of RMB business has naturally “created high demands on firms hiring and retaining their top talent”, says Massey of StanChart. As a result, he expects “salaries to rise in parallel to expertise and performance”.
While there is no shortage of CVs out there, Lee of DBS pointed out that you still need to “find the right one” that fits. He does note, however, that “you need to pay for good talent”.