Career Advice Job Market Trend Report

Relocations spur pay rises and promotions

While hiring for IT and back-office operations at banks and other financial institutions is slowly picking up, a trend is appearing where companies are moving their operations away from Central to either less expensive parts of Hong Kong or even overseas.

“We are still seeing banks moving their back-office operations to cheaper locations such as Singapore and India,” Jessy Wong, a senior manager at Michael Page Financial Services in Hong Kong, says. “Most of the activity is within private-banking and corporate-banking operations, where we still see growth in the Hong Kong market. Candidates are receiving around 10 to 15 per cent [in pay increases] to move.”

She adds that such candidates can expect to be promoted to managerial positions and take on regional roles covering offshore markets and functions.

Banks and financial institutions still hiring for their back-office operations in Hong Kong are generally doing so to replace staff, rather than increase their headcount.

“Hiring managers are under additional pressure to not only justify why they need to replace headcount, but also why this headcount should be onshore rather than in one of the offshore locations,” Mark Andrews, director for banking and financial services at Hudson, says. “Financial services firms continue to move their back-office staff away from the higher-cost locations in Central to more cost-efficient locations such as Quarry Bay or Kowloon Bay. One top-tier investment bank is even moving its back- and middle-office functions to the New Territories.”

Demand for senior candidates with corporate-banking experience, though, is on the rise – especially within structured trade finance, trade finance and collateral management, Andrews says.

“Having the necessary years of experience and technical skills isn’t enough to secure candidates a role,” he says. “Firms are more focused on the competencies candidates can bring to the organisation. In particular, candidates should be able to give clear evidence of their ability to manage teams effectively and across different countries, both up and down in an organisation. They should also show that they are able to understand the core strategy of a firm and work with senior management to implement it.”

According to Ian Strutton, director of Experis Hong Kong, prospects for the IT job market are expected to remain positive in 2013 because employers are facing a shortage of qualified and experienced IT staff.

“Experienced IT sales talent are in demand, particularly those with solution-selling expertise,” he says. “To drive business revenue, several multinational IT solution providers are boosting sales targets with ‘sky high’ budgets, and this makes it difficult for them to hire enough IT sales talent. Despite offering good on-target-earning packages, some top-biller IT salespeople are less excited to take on a job with merely 60 per cent or below of revenue split.”

Hiring activities at the mid- to senior level of IT are also on the up, Strutton adds. “An active IT job market is expected for IT candidates with around three to five years’ relevant experience,” he says. “Demand for analyst programmers and IT support officers continues to remain robust. Companies are seeing the challenge of attracting fresh IT graduates due to low starting salaries when compared with the finance or investment sectors.”

Employers looking to fill openings in IT sales are seeking candidates with at least eight years of relevant experience from sizeable local vendors, multinationals or global firms, as well as a bachelor’s degree and an ability to communicate in fluent English.

Successful candidates can expect average on-target earnings of HK$600,000 to HK$800,000 for sales or pre-sales positions, and HK$800,000 to HK$1.4 million for senior sales or pre-sales positions.

“We are seeing an average of 15 to 20 per cent hikes in salaries when changing jobs,” Strutton says, adding that things are “trending upwards for junior to middle roles”.