Career Advice Recruitment tips

Demand shifts from hunters to farmers

In recent years, investment from mainland China has become the major driver of revenue for Hong Kong's private banking industry, creating a cultural shift in the way banks hire.

Hong Kong investors tend to value the relationships they have with their private bankers, and stay with them when they move to other banks. Mainland investors traditionally value and stay loyal to banks that offer comprehensive wealth management services.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong's talent shortage is set to continue, as unemployment remains low at 3.3 per cent. The city's banking and financial services sector is particularly hungry for talent.

Facing the changing private banking landscape and talent crunch, private banks are hiring differently to tap the rising investment from the mainland.

Traditionally, banks have tended to hire "hunter bankers", who carry their client relationships with them when they move, bringing guaranteed new business to their employer. In recent years, however, the investment volume from the mainland has been escalating on the back of its growing wealthy population, leading the banks to shift their focus to unlocking revenue from existing client relationships.

Keeping a stable team of private bankers to manage existing clients has therefore become a bigger concern. This has led to a higher demand for "farmer bankers", who are less focused on bringing in new business to fill private banking roles. This type of banker focuses on managing and driving revenue from existing clients, and aims to grow the business through effective cross-selling and services.

In other words, client relationships are increasingly attached to the bank instead of the banker. This change in loyalties has led to banks being more open to hiring new types of talent.

As banks are now more focused on building and retaining loyalty among existing clients, there are three key areas that employers are increasingly looking at: relationship building; technical banking knowledge; and the ability to manage the investment needs of multiple generations.

To build a trusted relationship with clients, private bankers need to be able to address their investment needs and provide professional advice. Therefore, banks are looking for individuals who are able to demonstrate their ability to communicate with clients and understand their needs, cultures and customs when they hire.

As clients look for professional investment counsel from private bankers, employing banks inevitably go for jobseekers who possess strong technical backgrounds. Individuals who are knowledgeable in multiple banking facets naturally stand out.

Managing overseas assets, balancing foreign and domestic investments, providing life and value-added services, and dealing with wealth transference and succession planning are in-demand banking skills that jobseekers should look to improve.

When private bankers focus on unlocking revenue from existing clients, it also means that they work to grow their client relationships beyond just one generation. Banks therefore seek employees who are able to manage the investment needs of multiple generations. This is particularly true when providing services for the younger generation, who are more willing to explore new business opportunities globally and are less adverse to risk.

Hong Kong's banking industry is constantly changing in line with emerging trends, innovative financial products and new regulations. These cultural shifts change the game in terms of how banks recruit and create opportunities for individuals who invest to better their profile and qualifications.

To remain competitive, jobseekers and employees should improve their skills in line with these trends.


Rick Chung is senior consultant - banking (front office) at Randstad Hong Kong. With over five years of HR experience in the banking industry, Rick is highly familiar with both internal and external recruitment practices within the banking sector.