Internal Auditors, Regulatory Reporting Analysts, and Financial Planning & Analysis professionals are among the skills in high demand across Asia, according to our latest Hays Quarterly Report of jobs in demand.
The overall trend for slower growth in China, the world's second-largest economy, is unlikely to have a significant impact on the banking and finance jobs market in the Asia-Pacific region. In fact, recruitment activity is expected to increase this quarter as many banks are recruiting across various levels and require candidates for both permanent and temporary positions.
So looking firstly at hotspots in China’s accounting and finance sector, there continues to be high demand for Regional Finance Managers as many multinational companies have offices in China, especially in Shanghai and Beijing. Employers are also looking for candidates with mid-level accounting, planning, and analytical skills who can be responsible for the regional finance operation.
Financial Analysts with strong commercial acumen are also sought after in commercial areas such as retail, FMCG, trading, and services as these businesses are paying more attention to financial planning and business analysis. We’re also seeing demand for costing specialists, especially in the manufacturing industry, Internal Auditors, Finance and Accounting Managers, and Commercial Planning specialists.
Moving to the banking sector, Corporate Banking Relationship Managers continue to be in high demand as most foreign banks are still in their growth phase and are looking to generate new client accounts. Credit Analysts are also sought because banks are implementing new credit control measures and need to establish a strong first line of defence against potential risks in their lending businesses.
Due to the IPO market still being slow, Debt Capital Market specialists are in demand. This area of banking continues to pick up momentum in China as it is currently considered to be an easier way for companies to generate new funding.
In Hong Kong Regulatory Reporting Analysts are sought in response to tighter legislation and regulations, as are Financial Regulatory Reporting Managers. Scrutiny by regulators continues to call for stricter requirements on regulatory reports produced. The pool of such talent in Hong Kong is limited, especially higher up the seniority ladder. Employers usually require candidates with existing exposure or niche skill-sets in these areas.
In commerce and industry new permanent positions are being created by organisations that are regionally headquartered in Hong Kong. Demand is high for Financial Planning & Analysis Managers who can adapt to fast changing environments and possess strong analytical, interpersonal, and communication skills. Also, strong demand exists for Internal Auditors across local, regional, and international banks. They continue to recruit for treasury and markets audit due to the complexity of products.
Within Hong Kong’s banking market, Quantitative Analysts, Corporate Banking Relationship Managers, Commercial Banking Credit Approvers, Private Bank Relationship Managers, and Compliance Change Programme Managers are all needed.
In equities sales and sales trading smaller regional and Chinese firms are constantly on the lookout for experienced candidates who can bring an active client base. They are mainly seeking Cantonese and/or Mandarin speakers but there is a limited pool of good quality candidates.
Language skills are also in the spotlight due to the increment of cross border M&A activities, with Mandarin ability becoming more important for M&A Bankers. Most of the cross border M&A transactions require bankers to write a pitch book in Chinese, or even negotiate deals in Chinese with Chinese clients.
Looking at Singapore’s accountancy & finance jobs market, the demand for contract and temporary candidates continues to increase. We are seeing more contracting roles for Financial Analysts, all-round Accountants with SAP ERP system knowledge, and Financial Planning & Analysis professionals.
Within professional practice, the focus on recruiting regulatory, risk, and compliance experts is unlikely to slow for the foreseeable future as all the top tier firms are investing heavily in the development of their financial services consulting capabilities.
Across commerce and industry we are seeing an increasing demand for candidates with experience within a shared services environment (in particular the transition of, or managing of shared services), highlighting the growing trend within the region for right shoring and business model optimising. Currently we are seeing high demand for finance professionals in media, advertising, PR, and IT Solutions.
The banking sector in Singapore is experiencing solid growth, and the banks are responding by increasing both their temporary and permanent staff. At this time of year there are fewer restrictions on headcount budgets, so more hiring on a permanent basis is happening. Demand is high for Compliance Officers, Projects/Change Managers, and Credit & Market Risk specialists.
In Malaysia there is a steady demand for Tax Managers, Accounts Payable/Receivable Managers, CFOs and Financial Controllers, Corporate Finance Managers, Risk Analysts and Credit Risk Managers, and Compliance Officers.
Within commercial businesses we have seen an increase in demand for local tax experts who are able to implement the new GST regulations in Malaysia. As many tax experts often prefer an advisory role to a compliance and regulatory role in business, there is currently a shortage of these professionals. Candidates with international tax knowledge and experience have an added advantage.
Record to Report Leads and Tax Accountants are always two key functions in demand within Shared Service Centres (SSCs) that are required for statutory and financial reporting. This demand has been generated due to the growth of SSC in Malaysia. There is also strong demand for Managers and Team Leaders in SSCs throughout Malaysia due to a shortage of candidates who are able to move up to the managerial level from transactional process positions.
In other trends, within financial services new positions are being created in niche areas, mostly within risk and compliance, and are catering to specific functions within banks. There has also been an increase in contractual roles to help with the many projects the banks are venturing into (mostly for finance technology professionals).
There is still a shortage of candidates for specialised functions within banks. At a mid-management level, employers look for candidates with a good mix of technical knowledge, awareness, and the ability to manage stakeholders well.
Finally in Japan a competitive market is making it difficult for employers to secure Financial Planning & Analysis staff. With competition intensifying, junior bilingual Analysts are in high demand and receiving multiple offers.
Given the candidate shortage, employers have started to relax their requirements and temporary workers are securing permanent jobs. Companies with strict requirements are struggling to fill positions, proving that flexibility and recruiting expertise are critical when recruiting in today’s market.
As the jobs market has picked up, senior Finance Directors are now seeking new opportunities internally and externally, and as a result of this turnover we are seeing many more vacancies in this area. Also, there has been a sudden increase in demand for Internal Auditors due to the rise in compliance and risk-related issues facing companies. Both new and replacement roles are being created.
In the Japanese banking sector financial institutions continue to aggressively seek bilingual, junior to mid-level banking professionals. Jobs have been created for Junior Equity Analysts, Banking Operations staff, Internal Controls specialists, Regulatory Reporting professionals, and Research Analysts.
The demand is so high that it is not uncommon to see firms consider middle or back office professionals to be trained and hired into front office roles. In general, the trend has been to allow for a lot more flexibility as it is an extremely candidate-short market.
Many asset management firms see the value in investing in equities and are trying to add junior talent who can grow into sophisticated fund managers in the future. We have seen an increase in roles within settlements for both foreign and Japanese equities. Furthermore, due to a pick up in mergers and renewals project work, the data management and client on-boarding function has seen a sharp increase in activity, creating demand for staff.
The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Asian Banking & Finance. The author was not remunerated for this article.
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Christine Wright is the Managing Director of Hays in Asia. She has 20 years’ experience in executive recruitment and is currently responsible for the day-to-day management and growth of the businesses in Japan, Mainland China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, and India.