There are still pockets of skills shortages throughout the Asian finance and banking sector – giving us evidence that employers are looking for people who can help them make informed business decisions, maintain costs and comply with regulations.
Finance Managers, Business Analysts and Branch Managers are among the skills in high demand across Asia according to our latest Hays Quarterly Hotspots list of jobs in demand. Asia’s economic resilience is clearly evident as organisations invest selectively in headcount to drive business growth. Among the growing Asian financial institutions, most hiring activity has been seen in Chinese companies.
Looking at China’s accounting and finance sector there are steady demands for compliance candidates, particularly within the banking sector. This is due to enhanced regulations and risk controls affecting the banks, which resulted in foreign banks placing a higher importance on their compliance departments.
Chinese companies are seeking finance controllers and as a result candidates with the required experience and skill set are consistently in high demand in the Chinese market.
We are seeing many employers seeking Finance Managers due to the high turnover rate for these roles within China. Business Controllers who canprovide both financial and controller support to ensure the business is progressing as desired are in steady demand.
Moving to the banking sector Chinese employers are seeking local candidates for General and Branch Manager positions as banks transition from representative to branch level services.
There is a growing need for Senior Relationship Managers who have experience with SOE clients as major foreign banks in China are relying heavily on wholesale banking businesses to generate profits and a large portion of their sales revenue is coming from their SOE clients.
Trade Finance and FIs Sales Managers are in short supply as trade and Fls are core divisions within Chinese banks. With a strong focus on local clients evident in the current market there is a need for Commercial Banking/SME Relationship Managers to manage and maintain client relationships.
Overseas banks are migrating their back office business analyst functions to China in order to save costs. For this reason Business Analysts are sought. Employers look for candidates at the entry level who have two to three years experience in the banking industry.
Looking at Hong Kong we can see thatInternal Audit professionals have been in high demand since the Global Financial Crisis as organisations shift their focus to managing corporate governance risk, ensuring internal controls are in place to deal with any irregularities prior to statutory audits.
Given the current global economic conditions, companies need to make informed business decisions. As a result, Management Reporting specialists are highly sought after to assist in formulating policies and growth initiatives.
Due to recent Basel III requirements and new regulations, liquidity monitoring and balance sheet control pressure is high regulatory reporting candidates are needed. We are seeing a need for temporary/contract candidates as both employers and candidates realise the benefits of working on a more flexible basis.
Retail banking is currently a strong focus within Hong Kong as it is a high revenue generating sector. Banks are actively seeking candidates who have seasoned relationship manager experience with a substantial portfolio. But candidates are hesitant to move into these roles, which creates a shortage of available talent.
Banks are attempting to improve their external relationships with key stakeholders, which is driving a need for Commercial and Corporate Banking Relationship Managers, especially those who have experience managing local mid-cap and China corporate clients.
We are seeingmandarin speaking Credit Risk Analysts and Asset Managers for the investment banking sector in demand as coverage of greater China will be a focal point for banks in the future. To be considered for these roles Hong Kong candidates must to be able to read and speak Chinese fluently.
In Singapore we are seeing steady demand for Tax Professionals in both direct and in-direct tax. There are a limited number of indirect candidates available in Singapore and we have recently been sourcing these candidates from overseas. Candidates with regional exposure and commercial experience are highly desired by employers as they are not looking to train entry level staff.
Candidates with costing skills are also a rarity in the current market, especially those with manufacturing industry experience. Candidates with these skills usually want to move out of this specialty into other areas of finance and this is partly a result of the low salary rates of the role.
Employers are seeking candidates who have consolidation skills and experience but there is currently not enough supply to meet the demand. Candidates who are placed in these roles regularly leave them as they feel that this field is too broad and would prefer to choose a niche in finance where they feel closer to the business.
We are also seeing steady demand forcandidates with pricing and trades support experience and temporary and contract workers who can start in their new role immediately.
Candidates with Risk and Regulatory Reporting, Compliance and Internal Controls skills remain in high demand as they share the same synergies surrounding a similar goal. Companies are focusing on tighter controls as well as more in depth and regular reporting. These skills are expected to stay in high demand in the coming months as the banks need them in the event of a crisis. As a result there is increased importance in the current market for local regulatory reporting such as MAS.
Banks are currently seeking project and change management candidates as many of them are experiencing large amounts of change and transformation within their business. They are looking to reduce costs, save time and fulfil regulatory compliance and control initiatives. Although major banks are experiencing large amounts of change we are also seeing growth in areas such as Singapore’s AUM which is resulting in a high demand for candidates within the private banking sector.
At the senior management level t employers look for candidates who are commercially focused, highly analytical in FP&A, have business partnering skills and who are tech savvy in MIS.
Companies in Japan are finding it difficult to hire FP&A staff and Accountants as they are looking for entry level candidates but their expectations are for them to have a high level of English language skills and experience in accounting.
Bilingual written and verbal communications skills are a necessity for most roles throughout Japan but particularly for Accountant and AP&A Managers.
Employers are facing difficulties finding Controllers and Finance Directors as these roles can be very challenging; companies require them to not only have a particular skill set but also industry background and knowledge with the right fit for their company.
When we look at the banking sector in Japan we are seeing tighter and new regulations being implemented, creating a continuous demand for high level compliance officers in financial services. As a result we are seeing an increased demand for Internal Audit and Corporate Governance professionals.
Sales capacities are increasing within Japan so many employers are seeking talented Sales Staff and AM Product Managers who are product focused to generate revenue.
In Malaysia we are seeing a steady demand for local talent across many areas within the accounting and finance sector. The demand is particularly high for Chief Financial Officers, Global Regional Head of Audits and Global Process Owners. These candidates are usually sourced globally rather than locally which is creating a gap in the market of Malaysian candidates.
Many candidates that have worked their way up the SSC value chain feel that to enhance their career they must go back into core finance teams. Due to this there are skills shortages within the senior tier of SSC. This is not to be confused with senior project based candidates within SSC, where a greater number of candidates are available.
Looking at the mid tier to lower management section of the market we are seeing a trend of candidates applying for Financial & Planning Analyst roles who are usually from a lower position within the industry
so they only have basic skill sets. The challenge for these candidates is being able to step up into a senior role without the appropriate practical experience.
For more information see the Hays Quarterly Hotspots list at www.hays.cn/report, www.hays.com.hk/report, www.hays.com.sg/report, www.hays.co.jp/report, or www.hays.com.my/report.
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.