Industry seeks to reclaim glory days
Bruised by the financial crisis, Hong Kong's banking sector - the long-time top choice for those eyeing a finance industry career - has found it needs to work harder to attract and retain top talent, says Martin Cerullo, director, resourcing communications and innovation for Alexander Mann Solutions (AMS).
"Around the Asian region, including Hong Kong, the banking industry is still one of the top employment attractions, but we have seen the industry slip on the employment preferences list, especially among fresh graduates," Cerullo says.
The accounting industry, technology-related companies and small start-ups seem to be stealing the limelight from banking as far as young career-hunters are concerned.
He says as "Generation Y" members - those people born in the 1980s and 1990s - form a larger part of the workforce and they want to be led by inspirational, visionary leaders, and work in an environment where morale is high and colleagues are dedicated.
"There is a viewpoint of life aspirations versus career goals," Cerullo says. "After seeing what happened to their peer groups a few years ahead of them during the worst of the financial crisis, there is a question surrounding trust and career opportunities.
"Banks that were pilloried in the press over their performance and the part they played in the financial crisis changed the relationship they had with their banking peers and, in some cases, has left their employees feeling embarrassed to be working for the organisation.
"Where employment branding changes for these organisations is being honest and up-front by admitting they made errors and inviting people to join them on the journey to be better," says Cerullo, who works on branding projects for global organisations.
He says across the Asian banking sector, including banks that were less affected by the financial crisis, the issue of branding to attract and retain employees is becoming a major part of business operations.
"There is a big uplift in programmes designed to bring to life what people can gain from working in a bank," Cerullo says. "For a long time, there have been compelling external messaging extolling customer capabilities but not much of a link to what is happening internally.
"What we are seeing is a bigger effort being made to bridge the psychological gap. For instance, more focus on the value proposition offered to employees on what the bank can deliver."
In an effort to engage with potential employees, Hong Kong banks are using social media, a new concept compared with the practice in the United States and Europe.
Cerullo says banks are highlighting career opportunities by fostering a culture of promotions. This involves setting up communication programmes so that employees can see where they can move within a bank. "There is always talk of career opportunities within banking organisations, but these are not always clearly communicated."