Global banks in Hong Kong are stepping up their hiring of local talent and of Mandarin speaking mainland Chinese candidates, especially for front-office jobs in investment banking.
But Hong Kong remains an international financial centre – and there are still some roles where banks are willing to relocate candidates from beyond Greater China. Here’s a selection.
“AML compliance is an area where talent from overseas is still being considered, given that vacancies outweigh the current supply of talent based locally,” says Jack Leung, business director at recruitment firm Hays in Hong Kong. “However, only the large international banks are typically open to this, with many regional banks choosing to hire locally. And in general it’s mostly internal transfers within the same bank.”
“Because Hong Kong is mostly an equities market, it’s especially difficult to find strong locally-based market risk candidates who are focused on rates, credit, or fixed-income currencies and commodities products,” says Rouella Landicho, senior manaager at recruiters Randstad in Hong Kong. Foreign candidates will need “strong technical knowledge of products, and commercial and communication skills to deal with traders”, she adds.
There’s been a skill shortage of internal auditors in Hong Kong since the financial crisis and it’s showing no signs of abating. Banks are most open to overseas-based job seekers at middle-management level (AVPs and VPs), says John Mullally, director of financial services at recruitment agency Robert Walters in Hong Kong. People who’ve already worked at large global banks are particularly in demand – Big Four auditors attempting a move into banking aren’t.
Private banks don’t just hire their relationship mangers from Hong Kong and mainland China, they also recruit (in lesser numbers) from markets such a Taiwan, India, Japan and the Philippines when they want to staff off-shore desks covering these countries. “This allows banks to bring in new clients from these geographies more quickly – local candidates would need to invest additional time to research the new market and develop the right relationships,” says Maggie Li, director of banking at recruiters Executive Access in Hong Kong.
It’s not only cyber security specialists who are in demand in Hong Kong – banks are also hiring in the broader IT security function. “IT security is becoming more and more important now and it's hard to find good experienced candidates who also have banking experience, so firms are willing to relocate,” says Vince Natteri, a director at search firm Pinpoint Asia in Hong Kong. “The most sought-after people have five plus years of enterprise-level experience in both application security and infrastructure security. Good communication skills are also important as you need to influence stakeholders within the bank.”
The specialist nature of this role means Hong Kong hedge funds have to cast a wide net when they hire. “There is a tight pool of candidates locally, and overseas candidates bring international exposure in terms of different finance, tax, operational, compliance and legal systems,” says James Stokes, a senior associate at search firm Anton Murray Consulting.
Banks in Hong Kong need more project managers as they create new digital platforms for their clients. “Digital banking has been on the ascendancy over the last couple of years in Asia,” says a Hong Kong-based recruiter. “In Europe, the US and Australia, digital applications have been around for longer in banking, so there’s a deeper pool of people who’ve already worked on large and complex projects. These more mature markets have candidates with sophisticated skills that banks in Hong Kong are looking to leverage.”
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