The first quarter of the calendar year is traditionally a peak recruitment season within banking & financial services. The pace of recruitment will speed up with the majority of employers reviewing headcount and planning for the new year that lies ahead. This quarter will also see the payment of annual bonuses, which is preceded by candidates looking out for good opportunities and followed by an influx of roles and recruitment activity as people search for their next role.
This signals an active jobs market for those professionals with the skills in demand. According to the latest Hays Quarterly Report, for January to March 2016, skilled locals around the region will be able to advance their career this year with several factors keeping the jobs market active.
In Singapore, the banking & financial services sector is focused on hiring across risk and controls related positions. Internal auditors are in high demand thanks to an increased focus around third line of defence, and client onboarding professionals are also sought due to an increase in regulations at the frontline level.
Within professional practice in Singapore, the volume of merger & acquisition activity in South East Asia continues to grow causing increased demand for M&A professionals with exposure to post-merger integration. In commerce, industry-specific regional auditors are also in demand.
In Hong Kong, we are seeing a strong desire from employers to have candidates on board before Chinese New Year. This is interesting because in Hong Kong it is well-known that the hiring peak is May to June after bonuses are paid out. But what isn't well known is that the second greatest peak in hiring demand is in February just before Chinese New Year.
Top-tier banks in Hong Kong are seeking compliance professionals equipped with strong legal and regulatory knowledge. In particular, candidates with experience at local regulators are highly preferred. Internal auditors are in demand across the banking industry and in commerce due to increased regulations placed on Hong Kong banks.
In Malaysia, multinational organisations are looking to take advantage of Malaysia's geographical location, multi-lingual capabilities, and abundance of skilled workers to establish their regional operations. With this, an increasing number of Shared Service Centres are being established in Malaysia, and the role in most demand is the SSC Head, required to start their operations.
Commercial and private banking are two targeted growth segments for Malaysia in 2016, and therefore relationship managers are sought to drive sales and business development. Also, talks about the Trans-Pacific Partnership and ASEAN Banking Integration Framework are starting to create more demand for trade and cash professionals particularly in the functions of cross-border banking sales, product development, and back-end operations.
Turning to China, where confidence within the banking & financial sector is strong, we're seeing high demand for financial services sales professionals especially from asset management companies and security firms due to their high turnover and active expansion strategies. Anti-money laundering positions are another area of demand in both branches and operation hubs; commercial banks being the first to control a variety of financial criminal risks.
China's accountancy & finance jobs market will also be active this quarter, with growth predominantly coming from SMEs and start-up companies, many of which are planning to go public and looking for candidates with previous IPO experience. Employers require candidates with strong business acumen and deeper business involvement, as opposed to purely technical accounting and financial analysis skills.
In Japan, companies investing heavily in Japanese stocks are in major need of experienced equity sales and trading personnel. There is also a general shortage of candidates in the KYC and collateral management areas. Accountancy & finance employers in Japan continue to seek financial analysts and mid-senior level FP&A professionals across all industries.
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.