Despite current global economic conditions, demand is still evident across Asia’s banking and finance sector for particular skills. Here Christine Wright, Operations Director for Hays in Asia, discusses trends and current opportunities across the region from the latest Hays Quarterly Report.
Relationship Managers and credit and risk professionals top the list of the most in-demand skills across Asia’s banking and finance sector at present. This is one finding from our Hays Quarterly Report for the July to September quarter, which is now available.
Looking firstly at demand in China, according to the Report candidates are looking for a role in a stable organisation with a solid reputation and a good career progression plan. They are also focusing on the balance between working environment and personal compensation. A good leader and a stable organisation are sometimes more attractive than the salary on offer.
In most demand in China’s banking sector are Senior Relationship Managers within corporate banking. This follows the release of bonuses in March, which has led to candidates entering the jobs market and the need to replace departing staff. In addition, some small foreign banks integrated their representative office and branch offices and this has created the need to hire experienced Senior Relationship Managers to build and expand their corporate banking business.
We are also seeing demand for Senior Trade Finance Managers and Relationship Managers since some banks are planning to expand in China and need more senior staff to bring in new business.
Banks are restructuring and consolidating internal resources, which is creating demand for internal control and project management professionals. At the same time, banks are more cautious in managing lending activities. As a result, experienced credit and risk professionals are needed, in particular Credit Analysts, Senior Credit Officers, Risk Management/Controls Officers and Head of Risk.
In addition, under the new Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement between Hong Kong and China, eligible Hong Kong banks are establishing new branch offices in second tier cities more quickly and with fewer rounds of approval from CBRC. This is creating new opportunities in second tier cities for Branch Managers and Relationship Managers.
Compliance Managers and Investment Managers are also sought in China, as are frontline sales professionals to boost revenue.
Turning to Hong Kong, employers have relaxed their high expectations and become more flexible in the candidates they will consider in response to a shortage of skilled and experienced professionals. Employers are quickly realising that current levels of supply dictate a more flexible approach.
Good performing Relationship Managers are needed, particularly by SMEs, mid-cap and local corporates. These candidates are usually very well connected, but given that there is an abundance of Relationship Managers for every bank, identifying the good performers from the poor is the key challenge.
We are also seeing demand for Transaction Banking Specialists, Credit Approval Managers, Credit Risk Analysts and Trade Product Specialists. Given that the jobs market for bankers was very active in 2011, there is less supply today and employers are competing for the top talent. Consequently, counter offers are very common as a retention tool.
We are also seeing high demand for Mandarin speaking candidates as banks strategize to grow their China business. The ability to read and write Mandarin is essential to understand Chinese financial statements and to communicate with internal colleagues.
Given market conditions and budgetary pressure, we expect to see vacancy activity in Hong Kong centre upon the entry to mid level rather than senior level over the year ahead.
In Singapore, Operational Risk, Compliance and Trade Finance Operations candidates are sought. There is a strong emphasis on risk and controls in every financial services institution at present. Add new regulations from the US and demand for suitably skilled candidates is high.
Corporate Banking, Cash Sales and Credit Risk candidates are also sought since many banks are strengthening their cash teams while also doing what they can to retain staff. This has reduced the pool of available candidates.
Looking ahead, legislation such as Dodd-Frank and FATCA as well as Basel III will continue to evolve and change. As a result, banks will continue to hire new people into their risk and control teams to help effect these changes.
In Japan, Compliance Officers from Associate to Director level are in demand across the board but particularly in IBD compliance. This is in response to investment banks focusing on IBD to expand their businesses into mergers, acquisitions and corporate finance. While this is traditionally a candidate short area, demand has risen further as financial firms seek to manage increased regulatory control.
As with most risk functions, including market risk and liquidity risk, we are seeing high demand for Credit Risk Management specialists for both corporates and financial institutions. Candidates with solid experience and approvals authority are particularly sought as firms tighten processes and seek to minimize risk.
Bilingual Project Managers, especially those with change management or business process improvement experience gained in-house in the finance industry, are sought by organisations under pressure to maximize efficiencies, minimize costs and implement changes, including off-shore initiatives.
Demand remains strong for Corporate Banking Relationship Managers as well as experienced Banking Operations specialists since banks want to grow their more stable corporate banking business. As a result, there is high competition for candidates with specialised knowledge of processes in trade finance, project and export finance and cash management businesses.
In asset management, experienced Senior Relationship Managers for institutional sales as well as distribution sales are still highly sought after. Firms are seeking to increase the value of their assets under management by gaining greater market share and developing new sales channels.
In addition to these candidates in demand, roles exist in all areas in Japan, particularly for replacements and upgrades. Employers value candidates with experience at one of their competitors, ideally in a similar role.
Vacancy activity is also taking place in the finance technology market. For instance, in China C# and WPF Developers, Java Developers (J2SE), C++ Developers, Support Analysts and QA Analysts are in high demand. The finance sector requires the bulk of their technology resources to remain hands-on, which is why demand is high for development or support candidates.
In addition, international financial institutions are establishing themselves in China and in response a growing number of candidates are moving between similar organisations for pay rises. This is fuelling an active candidate market. There is also a continuous trend of senior personnel being relocated back to China to establish Greenfield development environments.
Meanwhile Hong Kong’s finance technology market is showing some signs of improvement although employers still prefer to recruit on a contract or contract-to-permanent basis rather than for permanent roles. The most buoyant market remains equity derivatives. There is also a very limited flow of strong talent within the development and infrastructure spaces.
Singapore needs Project Managers at the mid level, Product Managers for core banking projects and iOS Developers with experience. Demand surpasses supply for Regulatory Reporting PMs with the appropriate business knowledge, while we are also seeing high demand for OTC Derivatives Business Analysts. This is a growth area and there is only a finite group of people who know the main trading exchanges and who are based in Singapore. This is one of the few areas for which employers are still willing to consider relocating candidates from overseas.
In Japan Project Managers and Business Analysts are in high demand in response to the off-shoring and outsourcing of IT. Yet there is a shortage of suitable candidates. Adding to demand are a number of infrastructure build-out projects at banking and insurance houses, while some IT operations need to be enhanced in order to meet IT regulations.
We are also seeing high demand for IT audit, risk and security specialists to enhance IT systems in response to FSA regulations and policies, as well as Infra Engineers, Application Support specialists and Programmers.
Hays, the world’s leading recruiting experts in qualified, professional and skilled people.
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.