Career Advice Recruitment tips

Growth spurs jobs

Martin Cerullo
Managing Director – Development, APAC and Global Director, Resourcing Communications and Innovation, Alexander Mann Solutions

What banking jobs are in highest demand in China?
From an investment banking point of view, the situation has been mixed. Some banks are building infrastructure on the mainland, meaning they are looking at the back-office side of things – everything from IT through to risk and product control. We are also seeing some demand from the M&A and corporate finance side, but not as strong as in the past two or three years. There is some demand in the private banking side for various regulatory reasons, but not as much as in other parts of Asia.

In terms of infrastructure, one organisation that we are working with has spent five or six months building a centralised IT team in Shanghai. Others are working on broader infrastructure projects.

Why are they building infrastructure parts of their office in China?
Sometimes it’s to accommodate local business growth, although it also offers other advantages, such as enabling them to serve the broader region. On the risk and product control side of infrastructure, you’ve got regulations that apply to banking globally. Banks need that local expertise to be able to implement on a regional level.

How do you see this demand moving forward?
It’s not just in China. Globally, banks have been hit with a wave of new regulations, and as a result they have had to put in place much more infrastructure surrounding risk and product control. I can see the need for these types of people and skills continuing. However, while increased regulation is driving a lot of hiring, there’s always going to be a need for these roles.

What levels are the hires at?
Anything from associate, to vice-president, senior VP and director grade – so it covers pretty much anything from upwards of three to five years’ experience.

Edmond Pang
Senior Manager, Hays Shanghai

What’s happening in the market?
This quarter, we see demand in different areas. In the middle to back office, we are looking at business analysts as overseas banks are moving the function to China to save costs. We see demand for entry-level candidates with up to three years’ experience, and for FP&A (financial planning and analysis) managers, head of compliance, finance managers, and credit and risk managers.

With front office, it is commodities traders, trade finance sales, retail and corporate banking relationship managers, product managers and small and medium enterprise banking sales.

Do you see any regional trends?
In northern China, the focus of large foreign banks is on replacing departing staff rather than adding headcount. There are replacement vacancies for corporate banking senior relationship managers who are attracted from small banks to update branches in Beijing.

We also see some demand for commercial banking relationship managers, who focus on the medium-sized enterprise markets, and their client’s annual sales turnover are around 4 billion to 5 billion yuan. This is because foreign banks’ onshore market share in state-owned clients is being squeezed out by China domestic banks. As a result, they are paying much attention to the middle-market business right now.

In southern China, as usual, relationship managers are in good demand. Shenzhen is seen as an area of growth due to the government initiative of developing Qianhai, and the government is approving more licences to foreign banks engaging in investment banking business there.

What about pay?
It’s a candidate-short market, and I’ve seen some banks willing to bump salaries up 50 per cent or more to attract senior candidates, provided they have unique skills. The salary increase for banking positions are 20 per cent on average.

Laura Yu
Manager – Financial Services and Banking, Robert Walters Shanghai

What are the hottest jobs in China at the moment?
I would say in mainland China, the biggest demand is in the front-office roles, such as relationship manager. Front-office will always be one of the most important departments for banks because they generate the revenues for the entire banking group.

In what part of banking?
Retail banking, especially for foreign banks, is somewhat challenging this year, so most hiring is in commercial banking. People see China and Asia as where opportunities are, as do foreign banks, and they are investing in the Chinese market. One growth area is rural or village banking.

Many foreign banks have expansion plans for their rural banking business, opening branches across second- or third-tier cities. The government is giving support to financial institutions helping smaller companies to develop in an effort to boost economic growth.

A global, leading Australian bank, for example, recently started its rural banking business in China. This has been the main drive for hiring in the front office. We are talking about relationship managers responsible for dealing with small and medium enterprises.

What kind of candidates are they looking for?
For this kind of position, they may be looking for middle-level to senior candidates. Because these rural banks are just starting up, they need senior people with experience to help them to build up their platform. If the business runs well, they also need lots of junior middle-level candidates to execute their business plan.

What about pay?
Not only for rural banks but just in general, if bankers change jobs, we are talking anywhere from 15 to 30 per cent increases in pay.