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FINANCIAL TECHNOLOGY | Contributed Content, Singapore
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Chris Mead

Hiring hotspots in Asian banking and finance in 2Q13

BY CHRIS MEAD

Internal Auditors, Cost Accountants and Relationship Managers are among the candidates in hottest demand this quarter across Asia, according to the Hays Quarterly Hotspots.

According to the latest Quarterly Hotspots, out now and covering April to June 2013, pockets of shortages for specific skills remain in a number of sectors including accountancy and finance & banking.

Essential to help businesses track and improve its performance based on budget, forecast and expense control, these candidates are always in demand, particularly by large multinational companies.

Internal Auditors are also sought due to more businesses currently focusing on strengthening their internal controlling and auditing function.

Relationship Mangers within commercial, retail and private banks are in demand to drive business growth.

According to the Hays Quarterly Hotspots for April to June 2013, demand is highest for the following skilled professionals:

Accountancy and finance

China

Finance Controllers – Almost every organisation will need a finance controller, so these candidates are always in hot demand, whether companies are looking to replace someone or to fill newly-created positions.

Business Controllers – Essential to help businesses track and improve its performance based on budget, forecast and expense control, these candidates are always in demand, particularly by large multinational companies.

FP&A Managers – These candidates are in strong demand due to the restructure, relocation or expansion of many businesses in China.

Accounting Managers – Employers are currently looking for either replacements or new appointments and these candidates are always in high demand at this level because most organisations will need someone to manage the book keeping, accounts, and keep in contact with the bank/tax bureau.

Internal Auditors – These candidates are in demand due to more businesses currently focusing on strengthening their internal controlling and auditing function.


Hong Kong

Financial Analysts with financial modelling skillset – Analysts are almost always in demand in most industries particularly in the Retail and FMCG sectors. We have also seen an increase in demand in candidates with financial modelling skillset to evaluate investment and new project potential as a way to grow the business.

Senior Business Partner Finance Professionals with Asia/ APAC region experience – Demand for experienced finance professionals (Finance Director level or above) with a strong technical skillset, coupled with strong communication and interpersonal skills and strategic mindset, is on the increase. It’s not enough to have strong technical skills, this is not a back office function and the ability to interact with, and influence, senior non-finance executives is crucial, as these candidates are required to act as an advisor to provide strategic implications from a financial point of view.

Cost Accounting – Accountants with strong costing skillsets are required to provide analysis and evaluation on the various costs in a business to drive cost efficiency and maximise margin, especially in the manufacturing industry for products that have a lower margin.

Company Secretary with Listed Company Experience – These candidates continue to be in demand, to ensure a company is compliant with statutory and regulatory requirements.

Candidates with strong China market knowledge – As China is a key growth market in Asia, candidates with strong China market knowledge, including China Accounting Standards, tax and customs are in high demand.

Singapore

Tax Professionals – Tax candidates with regional exposure and commercial experience are in demand. Employers are less likely to take on tax professionals with experience only within practice firms. But those with a combination of both practical experience, as well as commercial experience, are in hot demand.

Costing– Candidates with costing skillsets are in short supply in the current market across all industries and the challenge is to find candidates for entry to mid-level positions. Candidates within costing usually want to move out of the area into finance, as the salary scale for costing candidates is quite low. We are expecting to see a continued demand for costing skills for the rest of the year in Singapore.

Pricing – There is a continued shortage in pricing candidates who have the option to move into sales and marketing, or finance roles which may be more lucrative. Employers are looking at hiring those with specific pricing experience and are currently not willing to train candidates.

Internal Auditors – There is a demand for auditors with commercial experience in addition to practical experience in an audit firm. The nature of this role requires extensive travel and eventually Internal Auditors will look to move into other areas of finance, which decreases the candidate pool.

Consolidation – There is a demand for candidates with consolidation experience and employers are looking for relevant experience. There is a shortage in this area as some candidates will want to move out of consolidation and into other roles where they are closer to the business.

Japan

FP&A Managers and Staff –There are not enough bilingual candidates in Japan to supply the demand for FP&As with good English and communication skills. Many companies are looking for these candidates and when good candidates come onto the market employers will need to be competitive to secure them.
FP&A Staff – As above, there is consistently a lack of talent in this field due to the language and skillset requirements that employers are now expecting.

Accountants – Entry-level bilingual candidates are in strong demand because companies are looking for future leaders in their organisations and are trying to secure entry-level candidates with strong potential. However, young and bilingual candidates with a few years experience are rare in the Japanese market.

Controllers – Employers are demanding specific industry experience for these candidates, narrowing the talent pool.

Tax Specialists – Historically tax candidates don’t have English skills and bilingual talent is now increasing in demand in the market.

Banking

China

Branch General Managers – As smaller banks open new branches in China, the demand for Senior Bankers from large banks will increase. This will also create opportunities for corporate banking senior candidates such as Relationship Managers, FI Senior Bankers, Trade Finance Managers and Branch General Managers.

Relationship Managers – Many foreign banks are actively hiring Relationship Managers, especially in South China and in tier-two cities, with an aim to drive business growth from SOE/POEs or the MNC market.

Transaction Banking Senior Sales – These candidates are also in huge demand due to foreseen revenue growth from cross-border transactions, combined with a slow recovery from global markets business.

Credit/Risk Controlling Professionals – In hot demand, these candidates are sought after due to the growth of corporate banking/trade finance functions in China.

Senior Portfolio Managers – These candidates are going to be highly sought alongside the anticipated expansion of asset/funds management and hedge funds. Especially candidates with expertise in commodities and equity index are in demand.

Fund Management – Due to over-inflated house prices, individuals and corporates are looking for other ways to invest their money. Collective fund management provides a channel for their investments and is fuelling the demand for Fund Managers.

Project Finance – China will continue its urbanisation to its second and third-tier cities, which means more infrastructure will be built, creating demand for project financing candidates.

Rural Banking – As the third-tier cities become more developed, their banking needs will also increase along with the need for rural banking professionals to provide financial support in these areas.

M&A Specialists – As the China economy matures, we have seen takeover activity increase. Larger players are taking over the smaller banks for various reasons including higher market share and cost savings.

Venture Capital – The Chinese Government is encouraging enterprises to invent new technology to achieve higher quality and efficiency in production across the country. Therefore, this gives rise to research and development firms, which in turn creates more opportunities for VC firms.

 

Hong Kong

Relationship Managers – There has been an increase in demand through commercial, retail and private banks for these candidates due to the growing Greater China market.

Asset Management/Fund Sales – Candidates with Asia-wide experience in specific Asian locations are in high demand because of the rising middle class in China, as well as other Asian countries like Indonesia and India.

Institutional Sales – Many institutions are looking at regional and local country strategies, which increases the demand for these candidates.

Credit Analysts – As more new business is undertaken by banks, increased risk needs to be assessed, creating a strong demand for these candidates.

Singapore

Risk and Control – Risk is a big priority for the banks at the moment due to recent high-profile incidents across the globe.

Trade Finance – Due to Singapore's position on the map, candidates with trade experience are always in demand.

Project Management – Banks are constantly evolving and looking to streamline their processes and improve their systems, fuelling the demand for these candidates.

Middle Office/Operations – For those parts of the banking sector that did not get ‘offshored’, there is always a steady turnover resulting in a constant need to refill positions.

Private Banking – Traditionally a big area in Singapore, the movement of wealth globally to Singapore has required the additional requirement for bankers with local knowledge.

Japan

Fixed Income Sales (Securities) – From associate to director level these candidates remain in demand. While usually seeking experienced candidates with an established track record and client relationships, there is the possibility for junior candidates with strong salesmanship ability, business knowledge, and motivation to also be considered.

Fixed Income Derivatives (Middle Office) – There has been a recent demand in Credit/Rates and OTC derivative middle office candidates, which is mainly due to regulatory changes. Candidates, who are in most demand for these roles, tend to be junior/mid-level bilingual professionals who are eager to move into managerial/supervisory roles. Also, generally speaking, most firms lack the talent pool of individuals within the AVP/VP level, and that is the area in most demand.

Bilingual Project/Business Managers – Bilingual Project Managers with change management/business process experience continue to be sought, but there has also been an increased demand for experienced Business Managers, especially those with specific business knowledge. Candidates outside of BM backgrounds may also be considered if they are strong communicators, have experience in interacting with internal and external parties (regulators), and are genuinely interested in working in this area.

Compliance/Audit Officers – Mid to senior-level Compliance Officers remain in demand, along with a recent demand for experienced Auditors. While firms generally seek experienced compliance/audit candidates with an established track record in their respected areas, less experienced, but extremely hungry and motivated candidates may also be considered.

Asset Management Product Managers/Sales – In asset management, experienced Product Managers and sales candidates remain in demand as buy-side firms seek to build deeper relationships with their existing clients and persuade them to invest further. People with good fixed income product knowledge, or Investment Trust sales backgrounds are most sought after. Firms can sometimes consider people outside of buy-side sales, if they have good relations with local institutions. Candidates for these roles generally tend to be at the mid level, and at the Associate/VP levels.


Finance technology

China

Core Java Developer – Global performance systems are being moved to China and Core Java is the technology of choice for server side technology, creating a demand for specialists in this field.

C# Developers (WPF) – The Global consensus that WPF is the future of GUI technology as it is preferred by traders within the finance sector is driving the demand for these candidates.

Hands-on Coding Development Managers (Core Java and/or C#) – Due to the continuous need to deliver technology, manage local resources and global stakeholders, this function has increasingly become critical in China.

Big Data Developer – NoSQL frameworks like Hadoop, Lucene, Pig, HBase have grown in popularity and the finance sector is in the process of implementing them.

C++ Developer – There are still systems developed with high performance C++ continuing to fuel the demand for these candidates, but there has been a trend of C++ conversion to Core Java projects recently.

Hong Kong

JAVA Developer (wealth management) – Many employers are moving away from their investment banking business and investing heavily in their buy-side businesses, increasing the demand for these candidates.

System Administrators (Linux & Unix) – The majority of applications, servers and programs are run on top of Linux and Unix and as a result organisations need engineers to maintain those systems, fuelling the demand for these candidates.

System Administrators (Windows) – The high demand for this skillset leads to a lot of movement across employers, so the majority of the candidates in demand are replacement hires.

Level 1 – 3 Support – Some employers prefer to use Hong Kong as a production support hub ahead of the standard low-cost regions such as India and Singapore and this is driving the demand for support professionals.

IT Risk Managers – Given Hong Kong is a major financial hub, the need for effective IT risk management is crucial for compliance, regulatory, security and cost purposes related to systems, applications, processes and procedures. Being pro-active to identify risks and solve them isn’t an option it’s a necessity thus banks are taking major initiatives to find the best IT Risk Managers. IT Risk Managers are key not only in identifying vulnerabilities and threats to information resources, but deciding countermeasures to reduce risk to an acceptable level. IT Risk Managers are key individuals which assist Technology Managers balance operational and economic costs through risk assessments, risk mitigation, evaluations, assessments and implementation of risk controls.

Singapore

C# WPFFront Office Developers – Banks are using this skillset as a standard for the majority of their front office trading systems. There is a tendency now to provide a good quality user interface used by external and internal clients.

Core Java and/or C++ Developers –Candidates with knowledge of pricing/risk are in demand as banks are starting to invest in front office systems that are being managed by Singapore-based teams for APAC stakeholders.

Business Analysts with Dodd Frank experience – There is a shortage of candidates in the local market with experience and understanding of the regulations and how they are impacting the banking landscape.

Internet/Mobile Banking System Analysts – These candidates are in demand to help shape the functionality and offerings for customers.
Delivery Managers – Strong technology-focussed Delivery Managers are required across various domains including core banking, cash management, equities and payments.

Japan

IT Risk and Compliance – With more businesses focusing on meeting their required regulations, candidates in IT Risk, Compliance and Audit are in demand. There have been multiple roles in this area recently, with candidates with strong experience being most in demand. Competition in this candidate-short area has led to companies having some flexibility on the level of candidate experience, especially if they don’t have the budget for someone with extensive experience.

Application-side BA/PM – Several mergers and acquisitions in the Insurance space have led to increased demand for Project Managers who can work on system separation projects. We have also seen Front/Middle-Office Business Analyst / Project Manager roles starting to open up at Investment Banks in relation to system upgrade projects in 2013.

Front-Office and Vendor-side Application Support – In the support area, Front Office Applications candidates are in demand, which is mainly driven by turnover and movement in the market as well as to support new systems and technologies. Companies are generally choosing to hire at the more junior end of the spectrum as it is easier to gain approvals and budget to hire at this level, however, there are exceptions.

Network Engineers – In infrastructure, we have seen several businesses continue to upgrade their data centre and networks to improve performance and stability, and this has led to demand for Network Engineers (and some System Engineers). Strong, bilingual candidates are in demand because many companies now have their infrastructure hubs based in Hong Kong or Singapore, so these communication skills are important.

Junior Java/VB.net Developer – We have started to see more junior positions opening up as more experienced developers are promoted internally and more junior staff are brought in as replacements. Junior Developers with bilingual (Japanese and English) language ability are more rare as they have generally had less time to develop their language skills in a work environment.

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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Chris Mead

Chris Mead

Chris Mead, Regional Director at one of the world’s leading recruiting company. Hays in South East Asia

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