The rising numbers of foreign workers in China, combined with the surge in the country's middle class and the liberalisation of the financial services industry are all driving demand for independent financial advice, prompting a number of companies in this area to expand their operations and hire staff.
According to the population census conducted by the National Bureau of Statistics, there were around 600,000 foreigners living and working in greater China in 2010. The 2010 census was the first time that the population of foreign nationals has been measured.
This population and that of the growing middle classes in the country - estimated to be as much as 400 million, according to renowned political scientist Francis Fukuyama - are driving the need for personal financial planning products and services. New technology platforms to cater for this market are sprouting, attracting significant user numbers and investment.
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Hong Kong-based Convoy Financial Services Holdings last year did a joint venture on the mainland in Shenzhen to sell equity investment advice to the market, adding to the branches it has been setting up around the country. Sequoia Capital recently committed US$10 million to two rounds of funding for Feidee.com, a Beijing-based personal finance management website that already has 60 million users.
Sina Weibo's parent Sina, a Chinese internet giant, has expanded into consumer banking with its new WeiBank platform providing web-based banking services including investment management, bank transfers, remittances, credit card repayment, and expense management.
One of the world's largest independent financial advisers (IFA) De Vere group earlier this month went on the hiring trail to recruit professional expatriates with backgrounds in sales, business development, real estate or key account management for the group's offices in Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen and Hong Kong. Another IFA Austen Morris has also been recruiting, targeting native English and French speakers for its expat client base.
Financial services firm Platinum, which has offices in Singapore, Hong Kong, China and Moscow, is on now the hiring trail to staff up to raise awareness of its brand, grow market share and take advantage of rising optimism in its core markets.
Hong Kong-based Mark Kirkham, who is the firm's chief executive, says Platinum is aiming to hire 'a minimum' of six new sales staff, including managers, in the four key locations of Singapore, Moscow, Shanghai and Hong Kong.
The firm currently has nearly 80 front and back office employees across its various offices, and is looking for new hires to drive sales and do business development. The company will focus on recruiting locals and expats in each market, providing they bring the right skills and qualifications.
"There is a lot of competition, however, for the type of people we are looking to hire," Kirkham says.