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april - june 2015
Updated: 14 Apr 2015

Hong Kong’s banking recruitment market will be active this quarter, with employers telling us they have positive hiring intentions. The increasing number of wealthy residents in Hong Kong has fuelled urgency and competition between retail and private banks to recruit the best front-line talent to their team. Even foreign banks, which have traditionally not been involved in wealth management, have started to implement and build these departments in addition to their more traditional lines of business, such as corporate and commercial banking.

Adding to vacancy activity are the ever tightening regulatory changes, which are prompting the hiring of AML and KYC specialists, especially in relation to client onboarding.

Permanent recruitment remains the preferred method of hiring, although we do see temporary assignments for middle office roles such as Trade Support, AML and KYC.

When they recruit, employers remain stringent in their hiring requirements and prefer local experience, especially for front line roles. For front line banking roles, some of the larger banks, which have volume recruitment requirements, will now consider candidates from China. Even in these cases though, suitable candidates have usually had some Hong Kong experience in the past. Most banks in contrast still prefer to look for local talent.

We’re also seeing high demand for candidates who have experience managing multiple stakeholders.

In terms of skills in demand for the April – June 2015 quarter, we’re seeing a high demand for Relationship Managers in corporate banking, private banking and retail banking. These are frontline revenue generating roles and banks in Hong Kong are more competitive than ever to capture new clients and increase their market share. Hybrid corporate/investment banks or hybrid private/investment banks have realised in the past couple of years that the revenue stream from corporate and private banking is more stable and profitable and thus they've elected to focus on these traditional revenue streams as opposed to investment banking which has been volatile in the past few years.

AML/KYC Compliance Managers are also sought due to tighter regulations in the banking sector and recent news around the world of banks being penalised with fines. Banks in Asia are more stringent than ever and as a result are hiring anti-money laundering (AML) and Know Your Client (KYC) Compliance Managers to control these issues. This will remain a hot trend in the next few years.

Investment Bank Credit Risk Analysts are needed in corporate and financial banking. In most demand are Mandarin-speaking candidates since more and more business now comes from China and Taiwan. Previously, investment banking Credit Risk Analysts working in Hong Kong tended to be expatriates or foreign educated professionals with limited Chinese language capabilities. As these candidates have slowly exited or been pushed out of the market, it has created a huge gap and high demand for experienced candidates with versatile language skills.

Trade Support (Analyst, AVP, VP) and Settlement Managers in operations are continuously sought for both permanent and temporary roles. Banks are now very confident in the skills available to them at short notice, and an increasing number are factoring temporary operations staff into their workforce planning. This is most obvious in trade support and settlements, especially when employers outsource their middle/back office functions, plan projects, and look ahead at peak demands or annual leave cover. Given that banks are expected to continue to focus on cost control and outsourcing or relocated teams to other low cost locations, the need for contractors will remain a focus. Despite budget constraints, financial institutions continue to offer higher rates and benefits to entice candidates from existing operation contract roles or to compete against potential permanent offers. This in turn will increase overall wage pressure in the middle and back office.

Finally, Front Office Investment Banking Analysts are needed at all levels. Again, employers are looking for Mandarin-speaking candidates. The concentration of business stems from China and thus Chinese language skills are essential to secure a role.

Candidates with a relatively stable profile are also valued. After Hong Kong recovered from the global financial crisis, there was a lot of movement and candidates changed employers – often several times. As a result, employers now value candidates with demonstrated loyalty in the past.

In terms of candidate trends, front line candidates are increasingly tired of trying to meet sales targets and are open to non-sales positions such as compliance or client onboarding, or credit analysis.