Stricter corporate governance regulations and an influx of mainland Chinese companies has strengthened demand for compliance, auditing and risk management talent in Hong Kong
Global trends in the banking and finance industry, coupled with an uncertain economic climate, are forcing companies in the sector to innovate and transform.
To meet demand created by newly created and renovated roles, Hong Kong professionals need to sharpen their skills. Organisations are now looking for multiskilled talent who have diverse experience, and are able to adapt quickly to perform duties that are beyond their usual scope.
A call for compliance
Drawn up by Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing (HKEx), the Corporate Governance Code (CG Code) applies to all Hong Kong-listed companies. It outlines the principles of good corporate governance and code provisions, and recommends best practices.
At the start of this year, HKEx implemented changes to the CG Code. This made a clear call for companies to improve financial functions and meet the standards of mature global markets.
This bolsters an increasing demand for talent in compliance, internal auditing and risk management. Banks are under pressure to invest in compliance and controls to prevent security breaches and offer customers better protection. With tighter regulations, more banks and financial institutions are actively recruiting talent who are skilled in compliance, so as to improve this aspect of their business. To attract such candidates to new opportunities, employers may offer a generous pay increment.
In parallel, companies are gradually separating their internal audit and risk management functions and, because of this, a number of companies are adding newly created risk management roles.
There remains a steady demand for professionals with internal auditing experience as a number of listed, private and multinational organisations across industries have an existing dedicated team to oversee traditional audit functions in their businesses.
However, there is a clear lack of highly experienced risk management talent in the Hong Kong market, as a number of professionals cover both internal auditing and risk management in their current role.
As we move further into the digital age, and e-commerce takes off, industries such as retail, utilities, consumer goods, banking and professional services are hiring in-house IT auditing talent. This is done to set up tailored internal controls and lower operational risks. With a more diversified business model, there is an upward trend for corporate organisations to hire forensic auditors to conduct investigations internally.
Contracting on the rise
Contracting in Hong Kong is still relatively new in comparison to more mature markets, such as those in Britain, Europe and Australia. However, according to the “2016 Michael Page Greater China Employee Intentions Report”, contract employment seems to be picking up in the region. In the report, 44 per cent of those surveyed said they would consider contract work.
Due to increased tightening of banking regulations, coupled with a lack of manpower and headcount freezes, the financial services industry in Hong Kong has begun adopting the contracting model for various jobs, and making use of recruitment process outsourcing.
This talent pool has responded well, as there is a rise in contracting positions across sectors. There is now a greater demand, for instance, for contract workers in risk and compliance, especially in the areas of “know your customer” (KYC) and “anti-money-laundering” (AML).
Hong Kong has always been a global hub for the financial services industry. Over the past few years, as we reinforce our role as the bridge between mainland China and the rest of the world, Hong Kong has attracted numerous Chinese enterprises that are keen to set up international operations here. In 2015, the government’s InvestHK initiative cited a total of 78 mainland Chinese companies either setting up or expanding their businesses in Hong Kong. This strategy is one answer to China’s call for mainland financial services institutions and enterprises to go global.
In parallel to establishing a financial services platform in Hong Kong, many Chinese companies are investing in overseas property markets, and acquiring consumer brands and factories across Asia-Pacific, Europe and the United States. With these diversified investments abroad, opportunities arise for financial services professionals who are based in Hong Kong. Chinese enterprises have been actively recruiting over the past two years, and this trend will continue as we see more international offices being set up in Hong Kong.
This article appeared in the Classified Post print edition as Comply and demand.