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Christine Wright

Here are the skills in demand in the Asian banking and finance sector

BY CHRISTINE WRIGHT

All-round Finance Managers, Regulatory Reporting Analysts, and Financial Planning & Analysis professionals are among the skills in high demand across Asia, according to our latest Hays Quarterly Hotspots list of jobs in demand.

A robust rate of economic growth should continue in Asia-Pacific this year, which will have a positive impact on the banking and finance jobs market. In fact, already we have seen more movement in both permanent and temporary positions, which is good news for candidates looking for their next step up.

A trend of note is the growing number of businesses across the region that are employing accountancy and finance staff in contract and temporary assignments in order to fill a short-term staffing need or assist with special projects.

The demand has become more prevalent as these professionals ensure work loads are still completed without the commitment of a permanent hire – which has obvious benefits when headcount flexibility is preferred.

Not only are employers increasingly looking to hire this way, more accountancy and finance candidates are also gaining exposure to contracting opportunities and in turn are warming to the benefits of the flexibility they offer.

Turning to the current hotspots of demand, in China we are currently seeing healthy job activity for finance professionals. Central bank governor Zhou Xiaochuan promises further liberalisation of the sector in the years ahead and this bodes well for more job creation. 

In high demand and short supply are Tax Accountants/Managers as tax policies often change and need to be interpreted. Multinational hire these specialists to communicate with the tax bureau in order to minimise tax risk and reduce unnecessary tax payments.

Also, as stricter regulations are being imposed on internal audit and the control of foreign banks, most banks will hire Product Auditors to enhance their business performance and minimise risk.

Moving to the banking sector, the potential liberalisation of deposit rates within one or two years, a quickened pace for the internationalisation of the renminbi, and  the introduction of more competition into the banking sector by allowing more private capital to enter China's banking business is all set to stimulate growth.

China is also planning to set up five private banks on a trial basis before the practice is extended.

The first batch of five banks will be in Tianjin, Shanghai, Zhejiang Province, and Guangdong Province.

Foreign banks are starting to focus more on their transaction banking business as China moves towards a fully market-based system of interest rates. As a result, qualified Transaction Banking Sales Managers will be needed as the banks can no longer earn large profits by only focusing on the interest rate differentials.

Foreign banks also seek Compliance specialists as they upgrade their operations to branch level. During this process banks need to communicate with local regulatory authorities and apply for related licenses.

Local Chinese who can speak fluent English and maintain these relationships are in high demand.

In Hong Kong Financial Planning & Analysis Managers are sought by technology companies that are developing diverse product lines, for example in the tablet and mobile devices sector. Technology companies are also growing operations in emerging markets.

As a result, they are recruiting accounting and regional FP&A professionals to build their analytical capability within their regional headquarters.

Regulatory Reporting Analysts are also sought in response to tighter legislation and regulations, as are finance professionals with securities and brokerage experience.

An increasing amount of activity from Chinese banks and financial institutions in Hong Kong is creating new demand for highly skilled candidates who have strong language skills in Cantonese, English, and Mandarin. Trilingual candidates can command premium rates and remain in short supply.

Within Hong Kong’s banking market, Corporate Banking Relationship Managers, Credit Approvers, Transaction Banking specialists, Hedge Funds Portfolio Managers, and Front Office Compliance specialists are all needed.

We’ve seen plenty of recruitment activity within corporate and commercial banking, however banks are becoming increasingly strict about their candidate requirements and are cost-conscious when it comes to putting together compensation packages.

This usually leads to a longer hiring process.

Looking at Singapore’s market, we are seeing more contracting roles in commerce for Financial Analysts. These professionals are sought within the FMCG industry to reduce costs and increase efficiencies.

More all-round Accountants with both financial and management accounting skills and SAP ERP system knowledge are sought for contract roles. And experienced Financial Planning & Analysis professionals remain high on any prospective employer’s list as they have a direct impact on the development and direction of a business. 

Within professional practice, the focus on recruiting permanent regulatory, risk, and compliance experts is unlikely to slow as the top tier firms invest heavily in the development of their financial services consulting capabilities.

Meanwhile Internal Auditors remain in high demand in financial services. Candidates who have conducted audits on leading financial institutions, or have spent some time in-house, are highly sought after and can command higher than average salaries.

Compliance Officers, Private Banking Relationship Managers, Credit Risk Managers, Trade Finance Operations, and Projects & Change Management professionals will also see high demand for their skills.

There is a steady demand in Malaysia from foreign and Malaysian banks looking to recruit local accountancy & finance professionals. Locally based professionals with multinational experience are particularly sought after due to the Malaysian Government’s focus on promoting local talent.

But Malaysia’s typical Finance Manager is transactional and finance-focused, and lacks general business experience and commercial exposure. As a result, Commercial Finance Managers are in high demand to fill the skills gap.

Also, locally based Financial Controllers with multinational experience are in short supply, especially from FMCG and light manufacturing organisations.

In banking we are seeing demand for candidates with expertise in specific asset classes such as derivatives, private equity, foreign exchange, and fixed income, mostly in the middle and back offices.

Anti-Money Laundering and Know Your Client efforts in banks have reached Malaysian shores due to global concerns about these issues. The tightening of regulatory requirements (and regulatory fines) has seen financial services employers recruit experienced AML Compliance professionals.

Last but not least, in Japan companies are facing a shortage of Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A) candidates. As the jobs market has picked up, companies are looking to expand the business planning side of their operations.

However, there is a shortage of bilingual candidates with the right skills.

As the consumption was increased in Japan on April 1st, tax specialists are highly sought by companies to look at ways to improve tax planning and strategy in order to retain more profit.

In the Japanese banking sector there continues to be strong demand for talented, bilingual finance professionals in response to new regulatory requirements, the introduction of over the counter derivatives transactions, and investor appetite for foreign fixed income products.

Regulatory Reporting professionals are highly sought after given Basel III and Dodd Frank. The new rules have created a need for candidates who are able to prepare regulatory reports for local regulators.

Also in demand are Over The Counter Derivatives Client Clearing specialists as the Japan Securities Clearing Corporation (JSCC) requires additional headcount to support its growing business. And Global Fixed Income Product Managers who can manage foreign fixed income investments are needed.

In a welcome trend, firms are investing in 'raw' talent, as opposed to only experienced hires. In addition, most firms seek candidates who are multi-skilled and flexible so that they can adapt to new systems, regulations and trends.

For more information, see the Hays Quarterly Hotspots list for China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, and Malaysia.

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

Christine Wright

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.

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