It’s nearly the fourth quarter – traditionally a comparatively quiet period for hiring in Hong Kong as banks tighten headcount budgets while they plan for next year. But despite the seasonal slowdown and other headwinds (including civil unrest in Hong Kong and falling growth on the mainland), banks are still ramping up recruitment in certain job functions – and paying top dollar to poach candidates from competitors.
What are the Hong Kong banking jobs with the best pay rises? Recruiters in the city say a salary increment of 15% or more is on the generous side if you’re moving to a new bank – 10% is the norm in the current market. Here’s a non-exhaustive selection of some of the roles where you’ll get at least 15% (probably more) if you change employers.
Corporate bankers with Greater Bay Area coverage
Several banks, most prominently HSBC, are expanding across the Greater Bay Area (GBA), the sprawling economic region of Southern China that includes Hong Kong, Macau, Shenzhen, Guangzhou and other cities. As a result, there’s increased demand for Hong Kong-based corporate bankers with GBA client networks, says Wisely Wong, senior manager of banking and financial services at Hays. Corporate banks want relationship managers who can bring “immediate connections”, but these people are hard to find because most Hong Kong RMs service local companies, says Wong. Pay rises of 20% to 30% are on offer, and corporate banks are willing to relocate RMs from the mainland to fill these roles.
UHNW private bankers
Ultra-high-net-worth (UHNW) relationship managers – who typically service clients with US$30m or more in investable assets (depending on the bank’s threshold) – are strongly sought after within Hong Kong private banking. HSBC launched an Asian UHNW team in March, while banks such as UBS, Credit Suisse, JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs are also major players in the sector. UHNW RMs can negotiate 15% to 30% pay rises when changing employers, says Abimanu Jeyakumar, head of Selby Jennings in Hong Kong, adding that he’s seen “extreme cases” of even larger increases. “UHNW bankers are desirable because their clients have more money to invest,” says Jeyakumar.
Machine learning technologists
As we’ve been reporting this year, banks in both Hong Kong and Singapore are stepping up their recruitment in machine learning as they use the technology to build compliance systems, mobile apps, trading platforms and other products. “Banks, hedge funds and securities firms are all investing heavily in developing machine learning,” says Jeyakumar. “Given the huge demand and lack of experienced talent, I’m seeing candidates being offered 20% to 35% pay rises, if not more. And most candidates are having to move from the US and China to Hong Kong – the fight for the best talent is fierce,” he adds.
Regulatory reporting accountants at virtual banks
Hong Kong’s eight new virtual banks – which are backed by firms including Standard Chartered and Ant Financial – are due to launch later this year and are hiring across a range of roles. “Due to the growth in virtual banks, there’s been increased demand for HKMA regulatory reporting roles for accountants,” says Elaine Lam, an associate director at Robert Half. “Candidates possessing full-set HKMA reporting experience are in short supply and can demand a pay rise of around 15% to 20% when securing a new role,” she adds.
Compliance professionals at virtual banks
Virtual banks are also hiring compliance professionals and are targeting those from traditional retail banks, says Winnie Leung, APAC head of financial services governance at Pure Search. Salary increments are typically within the 15% to 20% range, but remuneration isn’t the only attraction. “Most virtual banks offer the opportunity to gain exposure to setting up a new function and to actually participate in the creation of a new bank,” says Leung. “Combined with flexible working arrangements, this has made some of the virtual banks very attractive options for compliance candidates in 2019.”
Digital product roles
“With the surge in virtual banking in Hong Kong, I’m seeing a demand for candidates who’ve had exposure to retail products – specifically people with a digital-focused mindset,” says Sid Sibal, director of banking and finance at Hudson. “Moreover, traditional banks who are interested in digitising their services are also looking for strong product managers and directors to join their teams,” says Sibal, adding that pay increments can be up to 20%.
Image credit: FG Trade, Getty
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