The first half of 2015 saw a stable level of hiring activity in Hong Kong, with developments in the financial services, compliance and technology space driving the demand for professionals in related areas.
Launched in late 2014, the Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect started to have an impact on the financial services recruitment market in early May. There was a consistent stream of hiring across equity research teams in investment banks and an increasing demand for A-shares equity analysts from fund managers. However, as the talent pool in Hong Kong was relatively limited, firms had to source candidates from the mainland.
The scheme also led to an increase in demand for legal professionals. Organisations looked for funds lawyers with experience setting up retail and institutional funds, while law firms hired corporate lawyers with cross-border capital markets and M&A experience to manage the busy corporate activity.
Another key development in the first half was the growth of the compliance and audit functions in both financial services and commercial organisations. To respond to tightening regulatory requirements, banks continued to hire candidates with experience in anti-money-laundering (AML), financial crime, policy review and product-specific advisory. As regulators showed increased attention to the buy-side, buy-side firms raised headcounts and hired compliance generalists experienced in AML, funds and equities.
Many banks also focused on growing their audit teams to ensure the compliance function is monitored properly. This created a high demand for VP- and SVP-level compliance and audit professionals with over 10 years of experience. Analyst- to associate-level KYC candidates were equally sought-after as banks have been fined heavily by regulators for shortcomings in this area of governance and due diligence.
In commercial organisations, there has been growth in corporate compliance since the beginning of the year. Internal auditors remained highly sought-after as organisations improved their internal control procedures to reduce costs and minimise risks.
Other than increased hiring activity in financial services and compliance, technological development was another notable trend, driving recruitment for IT and marketing professionals.
On the IT side, the increasing implementation of “cloud” led to a higher demand for mid- to senior-level pre-sales consultants and solution architects from cloud service providers, as companies actively sought those with solid design experience in storage, server and network to help expand their businesses. IT security specialists were equally sought-after, as organisations look to build strong security systems to protect their data in the cloud.
In addition to the growth in cloud, the continued focus on digital and mobile applications and devices drove the demand for developers and programmers of all levels with experience in Java and mobile applications to manage the increased workload. Organisations also hired specialists with solid experience in digital marketing, content management and social media platforms to help expand their online presence.
Hiring trends are expected to remain similar for the rest of the year. The demand for contractors is likely to increase due to uncertainty in the global economy and many companies face the issue of headcount constraints. However, the competition for top talent will remain strong and professionals moving jobs could command an average salary increment of 10-15 per cent.
To secure their preferred candidates, it’s important for companies to offer competitive salary packages and move quickly through the hiring process. Hiring managers should also address factors such as benefits, learning opportunities and work-life balance as professionals place increasing emphasis on them.
This article appeared in the Classified Post print edition as Banking and finance drive first-half hiring.