Standard Chartered is already hiring for its new Hong Kong-based virtual banking unit. Other firms are expected to follow suit in the run-up to the Hong Kong Monetary Authority granting licences to operate online-only banks for the first time.
Stan Chart is among a handful of players to have applied for a virtual-banking licence, the first small batch of which are expected to be issued by the HKMA in late 2018 or early 2019.
The bank announced yesterday that it has “set up a new entity for its virtual bank” and appointed Deniz Güven as its chief executive officer. Güven, who joined Stan Chart in May 2017 as global head of design and client experience for retail banking, will “lead a team to build a new banking model”.
We understand that Stan Chart isn’t waiting for the licencing decision to build up Güven’s team. “It has been recruiting quite aggressively for the virtual bank, so it can hit the ground running if the HKMA gives it the go-ahead,” says a source close to Stan Chart.
Stan Chart’s virtual banking operation has been dubbed ‘Project Dragon’ and has been hiring for roles in technology, risk, compliance and HR, according to another source. The bank declined to comment on the name and the recruitment.
“For banks as large as SCB in Hong Kong, it’s probably easier to hire new developers from the market rather than transferring people from other teams into virtual banking,” adds Sid Sibal, associate director of banking and financial services at recruiters Hudson in Hong Kong. “Their existing technologists probably lack knowledge in virtual banking because it’s different from traditional e-banking.”
While Stan Chart is believed to be the only global bank to be seeking a virtual licence, several other companies have reportedly submitted applications before today’s HKMA deadline. These include Bank of China, Ant Financial, Tencent, Ping An Insurance, HKT Trust and HKT, Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi, online insurer ZhongAn, and the fintech firms WeLab and TNG Wallet, according to Reuters. The HKMA is expected to initially grant about four licences to ensure the new regime runs smoothly, says our first source.
All the successful applicants will need to hire across the board, say recruiters. Technology vacancies at virtual banks will focus on fields such as robo advisory, chatbot, application developers, front-end developers, and blockchain engineers, says Scott Townend, a strategic account director at recruiters Randstad in Hong Kong. Virtual banks will also need “marketing tech” (i.e. data analytics, customer experience and customer loyalty) staff, he adds.
“In the short term, virtual banks will be looking for CFOs, and compliance and audit professionals as these are some of the key positions the HKMA requires for an application,” says Gin Sun, an associate director at recruiters Michael Page in Hong Kong. “In the longer term, product developers and sales people will be needed.”
Recruiters expect high interest from candidates, especially technology professionals, for jobs at virtual banks. “Instead of working for a slow-moving Hong Kong retail bank, you’ll be going into a role which is being built from scratch under an exciting new regime,” says Warwick Pearmund, associate director of emerging technologies at Pure Search.
Stan Chart hopes that having a separate local digital platform will help it break away from its global and legacy technology systems and allow it to win new customers by working more closely with start-ups, according to Reuters. “Virtual banks present a new set of challenges for technologists. Their jobs will no longer be about building, maintaining and improving the tech infrastructure that traditional banks currently have. Their roles will instead reflect the shift toward data management, analytics and cloud services,” says Townend from Randstad.
Virtual banking technologists could also help to reform Hong Kong’s large but much-maligned retail banking sector. Small businesses have long complained about problems when opening bank accounts, while Hong Kong consumers remain widely unhappy with service levels from their current banks, according to 2017 research from Accenture. “Technologists at virtual banks will be pioneering a new era in banking in Hong Kong, and this could enhance their competitiveness in the job market in the long run,” says Sun from Michael Page.
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