Chris Aukland is the managing director of specialist recruitment agency Ambition and is responsible for the growth and management of the Hong Kong business. He has 15 years’ consulting experience in the UK and Asia.
If you’re an in-demand AML or compliance expert, you can negotiate work-life balance in Hong Kong
I work in AML and compliance in the banking sector. I’ve seen surveys say that Hong Kong is best for expats career-wise, but Singapore is the best place to have a family, while still bringing home a decent paycheck. I am keen to start a family in the next few years, but want to stay in Hong Kong. How do I craft a better work-life balance while bringing home the bacon?
Having become a father myself in the last 12 months, I can empathise greatly with your position!
Balancing financial responsibilities with the desire for a better work-life balance is no easy challenge in the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong’s banking sector. Compliance professionals, however, especially those with AML or sanctions experience, are some of the most sought-after in today’s market, and therefore have some unique opportunities.
This is due to the continuing focus on compliance and risk management in major financial institutions. The heavy fines imposed on global banks that violate regulations and Anti-Money-Laundering (AML) AML policies continue to make headlines. Banks have responded with additional hiring. by hiring additional compliance and risk management professionals to improve their compliance, risk management and AML programmes.
Since these roles are in demand, the attraction and retention of high-quality staff in this sector remains a priority for employers. As well as salary increases and performance-based incentives, employers focus on creating an employer value proposition, (EVP), including a positive culture, rewarding career opportunities, and a greater emphasis on initiatives that increase the diversity of their workforce and create a more flexible workplace.
Driven by an increasing focus on work-life balance among Hong Kong professionals, flexible working initiatives – such as working from home and flexible working hours for staff with family commitments – have increased employee engagement and retention. This means that, even if your current employer doesn’t offer such initiatives, there are employers in Hong Kong that do.
However, although there has been an increase in such initiatives, the pressures of the banking environment mean that there will always be a relatively heavy workload and time commitment required at senior level, which is true in Singapore too.
With this in mind, you need to know what your priorities are, and what you are willing to compromise on. You can pursue an excellent career in both Hong Kong and Singapore, but compliance functions in the former tend to be bigger in size and closer to the business, which means there are more opportunities.
It’s worth speaking to your current organisation to see if they offer flexible working options. If no such initiatives exist, you can perhaps suggest their implementation.
I recently met a senior decision maker operating in a global role based out of Hong Kong. Due to the different time zones he operated in, he had suggested that he not start work before 2pm, as he was on conference calls every night until after midnight. He therefore had more time to spend with his children
Compromise is key, and it is also important to be realistic. While more companies are rolling out work-life balance initiatives, these are often based on trust. Securing a high-paying role, the next promotion, and the ideal flexible working environment don’t often go hand in hand. Hong Kong is a highly competitive employment market – so you may need to be prepared to compromise.
This article appeared in the Classified Post print edition as If you’re in demand you can negotiate work-life balance.