Asia’s banking and finance sector is preparing for 2013 and all eyes are the region as a key barometer of the world’s economic fortunes.
Business Controllers, Financial Planners and Credit Risk Managers are among the list of the most in-demand skills across Asia’s banking and finance sector, according to the Latest Hays Quarterly Report.
Here is the complete list of candidates in hottest demand and the reasons why they are sought after.
Accountancy and finance
Financial Planning & Analysis and Financial Planning Controllers – A growing number of companies are becoming aware of the importance of planning and controlling with most of the big corporations setting up special departments to monitor this side of the business. Accordingly, roles like FP&A and Controllers are in high demand.
Finance Manager – With some businesses in the midst of restructuring, there are new openings for Finance Managers, fuelling the demand for these professionals.
Accountants and Senior Accountants – In most cases, these candidates normally have a high turnover rate, so if there are no internal roles or no salary increase, most of them will choose to look for new job opportunities. All organizations need people at operational level so it will be quite urgent to fill these positions in 2013.
Internal Control – These candidates are needed to build up processes and implement control in order to help organizations avoid business risk and lower costs. Many mature companies are looking for these types of solutions because as their business grows, they need to become more efficient and more standardized with low risk by setting up proper process and control.
Business Controllers – These candidates are required to help control costs and provide explanation for the variance between budget and actual spending, as well as implement action plans to help organizations reach profit margins. Most large companies attach great importance on this role, because companies need to understand how to make the right decisions to drive the business, therefore fuelling the demand for these candidates.
Financial Planners & Analysts – These candidates are in demand to provide financial and business analysis support on management decision making. There is a high demand in particular in the retail sector, especially those employers with plans to open new stores, resulting in the need for more analysis to support that growth.
Business Partner Finance Managers to CFOs – The increased requirement for finance professionals to work with executive management or commercial managers to provide financial advice to drive strategic decisions is fuelling the demand for these professionals.
Business Analysts – Candidates with strong financial and business analytical skill set are in high demand all year round as they’re required to conduct strategic analysis on a company’s financial and business (internal and external) situation, their potential impact on the company and to support business planning and management decision.
Strong Excel and Financial Modelling skills are especially valuable for business investment and feasibility purposes. For candidates in the retail industry, this skill set demand is particularly on the rise, especially to determine new store openings this quarter in time for Chinese New Year – traditionally a busy time for consumer spending.
Business Partner Finance Managers and Financial Controllers – Once, Finance Managers or Financial Controllers were treated as back office support. Today, senior finance professionals (Manager to Controller level) are often required to partner with non-finance senior executives such as General Managers or cross-functional Business Unit Heads, for example, to support the business and provide meaningful and commercial recommendations derived from financial analysis.
Employers have an increase in demand for senior finance candidates with strong commercial acumen and hands-on experience interacting with non-financial executives.
Chief Financial Officers – We saw an increase in hiring of CFOs starting in quarter three and four of 2012, and demand is expected to rise as companies are now more optimistic about the 2013 economy. This has been demonstrated by the increasing number of companies with IPO plans.
For Chinese companies to be listed in Hong Kong in 2013 and for them to achieve their IPO objective for the year and have sufficient time for due diligence, we expect to see a continuous demand in the first quarter for CFOs with hands-on IPO experience, strong Mandarin language skills and the mobility to travel to China.
Asia, in particular Hong Kong, is continually being seen as an attractive hub for new international companies to set up office and get positioned as a gateway to the bigger mainland China market. This has created new opportunities for CFOs to join these newcomers to lead their finance team and support CEO with strategic advices from a financial perspective.
Tax Professionals – Since the launch of the Singapore Institute of Accredited Tax Professionals in May 2010, more businesses are beginning to favour tax specialists who are accredited as it’s a mark of recognition of the candidate’s tax experience and academic qualifications.
Costing – Candidates with costing skills sets, especially those at mid to entry level, are in short supply in the current market. We tend to find that some candidates within costing will eventually move out of the space into other areas of finance. Also the salaries offered to costing candidates are generally quite low. There will be a continued need for this skill set in 2013.
Treasury – In the treasury space, there continues to be a small market of candidates particularly with cash management experience. There has been an increase of companies trying to better manage their balance sheets in this tight liquidity market. However, candidates often find it too narrow to specialize just in cash management. For 2013, we foresee a continuous trend of hiring though on a smaller scale.
Project Finance –This is a skill set that is only found within certain industries namely IT&T, construction, oil and gas, and engineering. Project finance candidates are in particular demand at the mid to senior level as not all finance personal are equipped with project management and implementation skills. At the mid to senior level employers require the individual to have solid working experience within this space.
Pricing – There is a shortage in this area as most pricing candidates have the option to move to sales and marketing or finance roles which can sometimes be more lucrative. Furthermore this skill-set is niche as employees want candidates with a pricing background and are not really open to candidates from other backgrounds.
Temporary and interim staff – Contractor candidates are in demand due to projects and a drive to increase the contingency workforce in many businesses.
Product Controllers – These candidates are in demand due to continued offshoring and a lack of talent and internal audits due to a focus on governance.
FP&A Managers – FP&A is in very high demand because many companies have opened up new headcounts in order to oversee their future business. Bilingual FP&A Managers with good communication skills are particularly in high demand.
FP&A Staff – Bilingual junior Analysts are rare in the market and employers are looking for bilingual and young talent who have strong experience and communication skills.
Accounting Managers – Many businesses are specifically looking for candidates from the same industry limiting the talent pool for these professionals.
Controllers – Employers are looking for strong leaders as many controllers are good at accounting but not business or strategic planning. Companies are looking for someone who can change their business from a finance perspective.
Auditors – We have seen a move of candidates from the big four accounting firms, driving the demand for these candidates.
Commodities Traders – Some trading houses are expanding their businesses in China creating candidate movement and demand.
Trade Finance Sales – Most foreign banks are currently strengthening their core banking business in the China local market, and trade finance sales is one of the targeted areas.
Relationship Managers – These candidates are in demand for both retail and corporate banking business. Front line sales roles are always put under spotlight as this is the main force to develop new business for the banks.
Credit and Risk Managers – Considering the current economic situation at home and abroad, banks are cautious in giving out credit and are managing risk in their operations. Experienced professionals in those areas are in high demand.
Product Managers – In a bid to compete in the market, banks are fuelling the demand for these candidates as good products will create more sales.
SME Banking Sales – For decades, most Chinese banks valued large corporations over small enterprises, leaving the majority of SMEs to rely on financial leasing institutions to obtain bank loans. However, foreign banks and Chinese commercial banks are now into developing the SME market, which is an area with space to grow. Therefore, professional and experienced SME sales candidates are in demand.
Relationship Managers (front office sales) – Relationship managers are in high demand most of the time because they can bring in new business and connections for a bank, creating more revenue.
Credit Analysts and Credit Approvers – As relationship managers are needed, Credit Approvers and Analysts are also in demand because they are responsible to justify and review the credit application from the sales side.
Product Specialists – As banks try to compete on the markets that they can sell niche products to target new client markets, Product Specialists are counted upon to work with Relationship Managers through joint client meetings and customized solutions. Some specialist areas gaining grounds in HK include structured commodity finance, receivables finance, trade finance, equipment finance and wealth products.
Product Managers – These candidates can develop and creating new products for the banks and are involved with channel management and implantation, client segmentation, and bank strategy, therefore they are always in demand.
Compliance and Due Diligence Managers – Compliance, client on-boarding, rules and regulations are becoming increasingly important in banking with several top-tier banks exposing areas of weakness through poor controls in recent years.
AML Professionals – In the risk and compliance space, there is an increased demand for these candidates because the MAS has placed a greater emphasis on this process. There has also been an increase in the smaller banks hiring in this area as they look to move their risk and compliance function in-house.
Credit Risk – This area continues to be buoyant, and in fact is arguably the busiest area of the market, particularly as Basel III begins to take hold of the operations of many global and regional banks.
Market Risk and Quantitative – This space is more modest, however, there are still a few positions available for candidates both based locally and overseas, particularly at the senior end of the market. For 2013 we see the trend of hiring in credit and Basel III to remain strong.
Banking Operations – Steady hiring continues in this field. There is more hiring in corporate banking areas like trade finance, loans admin, credit admin and payments due to migration of functions to Singapore.
Candidates are more open to taking on short term contracts whilst they wait for the market to pick up to secure their ideal permanent position. General operations in the larger banks has quietened down especially with more senior appointments where there has been an increased tendency to promote from within the business or rotate internally.
Trade Finance – This is an area of the industry that is seeing growth despite the downturn. This in turn means a skill shortage in this area, particularly in the more specialised candidates.
Commodity Trade Finance – Some investment management firms have experienced strong growth warranting additional headcount in operations. For the larger tier banks, the trend to replace on only an essential or business critical basis continues, and this will likely be the case throughout the first half of 2013.
Compliance Officers – From associate to director level these candidates remain in demand. While always seeking experienced compliance candidates with an established track record and relationships in compliance, there is a strong preference for people with good business knowledge.
Credit Risk Management – Credit risk remains a hot area as risk management is a key priority for finance firms. There is also a trend for both banks and securities firms to more closely integrate risk management functions into the business, with risk specialists sitting within the relevant business groups, in addition to the existing dedicated risk management teams.
A number of the big investment banks have also created new risk management focused groups to promote the overall risk management agenda across the business.
Bilingual Project Managers – Bilingual Project Managers, especially those with change management/business process Improvement experience in finance industry in-house roles are still popular with businesses which are facing continued pressure to maximize efficiencies and minimize costs of the business, as well as to implement changes including offshoring initiatives.
Those with middle office operations knowledge and experience are particularly in demand.
Corporate Banking Relationship Managers – In corporate banking, revenue generating roles are easier for managers to gain hiring approvals for so there remains a steady demand for good Corporate Banking Relationship Managers with an established client base, personal network and track record.
Asset Management Product Managers – In asset management experienced Product Managers are 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, from Product Manager and Fund Manager backgrounds are particularly sought.
Core Java Developers – With the increase in demand for development resources, Core Java Developers with exposure to Big Data technology such as Hadoop and Lucene have been in demand on the market.
C++ Developers – With the need for latency critical technology being developed in China, performance critical C++ on a Linux / UNIX platform is still highly in demand.
Development Managers/Tech Leads – With the growing population of Finance Technology developers in China, there has been an increased requirement for candidates with hands-on capability as well as overseas stakeholder management.
IT Security Managers – With the increased number of MNCs setting up JVs in business in China, there has been an increased need for IT Security for this expansion.
SAS Developers – With the move to a data-centric age, SAS Developers / Data Engineers have seen substantial increase in demand.
C# UI Developers – The majority of organisations are developing applications that utilise this technology for their User Interface, driving up the demand for these candidates, however, good Win Forms candidates are also being considered.
Level 1 to 3 Support – There is always high demand for IT Support Staff throughout the finance sector and IT as a whole. Support staff at Level 1 through to Level 3 are very often entry level into IT and used as a training ground as these are often entry level roles and these staff are trained technically and move up or move on.
Application Support – These candidates are in high demand as they are frequently needed to support new applications being developed.
Data Centre Project Support – More companies are building bigger and better data centres in Hong Kong given that it is one of the major financial hubs, fuelling the demand for these candidates.
C# .Net GUI Developers – In all front office business functions, across all asset classes front to back, from commodities to fixed income, equities to risk and compliance, are in high demand as C# is quicker and more adaptable to develop applications, rather than the traditional Java and C++ languages. Also, a lot of the new web-based technologies are starting to incorporate more C# capabilities.
User Experience (UX) Designers – These candidates are becoming hot property as banks develop applications that are user friendly and look appealing to customers.
Risk and Compliance – There is an increasing need for risk-related candidates as banks continue to manage the regulated environment they operate in.
Senior Portfolio and Delivery Managers – Candidates with knowledge across banking domains such as treasury, core banking, internet/mobile banking are in demand. Strong vendor-led product specialists across Murex, Calypso, Sophis are also in demand as the banks continue to implement, enhance and customise their platforms.
IT Planning and Business Continuity Planners (BCP) – There is demand for these candidates to implement projects that will lead to cost savings in system departments.
IT Security – IT security candidates within banks, securities and insurance companies are in demand to maintain the security of critical customer and trading data.
Application Support – Application Support is a role that has regular turnover as people move up internally, causing a back-fill requirement, or they have decided to move to a different company.
Service Managers – We have recently seen some Service Managers and service delivery candidates in demand on the vendor side as many system vendors are currently seeing increased business in Japan and relationships with new clients need managing.
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.