Career Advice Career Guidance and Counselling

Risk jobs ride high

Kirstin MacLaren
Director, Michael Page Hong Kong

Where do you see the action in the local banking and finance jobs sector?
In the first half of 2013, we saw an increase in the number of new hires at associate to vice-president level for compliance and credit risk roles. There were a number of replacement hires in the first half of 2013 across financial markets compliance, AML [anti-money laundering] compliance, corporate banking compliance, as well as credit risk roles for both financial institutions and the corporate sector. Compliance officers with sanctions and AML backgrounds are particularly sought-after.

There has also been strong demand for equity compliance managers with experience in dealing with both HKMA [Hong Kong Monetary Authority] and SFC [Securities and Futures Commission] regulators. Candidates with a proven track record in AML [anti-money laundering] compliance across both investment banks and private banks can command salary increases of 30 per cent plus to make a move.

What about in other sectors?
Ratings agencies have been expanding their corporate ratings teams due to the increased number of originated debt capital markets transactions and bond issuances in the Asia-Pacific during 2012 and in the first half of 2013. We have seen hiring from analyst to VP level candidates coming from IBD [investment banking division], credit research and ratings advisory backgrounds with fluent to native-level Mandarin skills move into these roles.

Any other trends?
Our clients are focused on individuals who are genuinely interested in a career move. Recently, it has become clear that some individuals are “window shopping” and using the interview process purely to leverage a salary increase with their current employer. So for those individuals genuinely interested in a move, there is plenty of opportunity if you show focus and commitment and conduct thorough research ahead of an interview on the prospective employer.

Edward Chen
Asia-Pacific Director, Harbridge Partners

Which sectors in banking and finance are thriving in Hong Kong?
In my specialist areas, compliance, legal and risk are strong. At Harbridge, among my colleagues who recruit on the front desk and marketing side, the private banks and mainland Chinese financial services firms are growing their presence and market share in Hong Kong. On what we call the front desk side, we have strong demand for private bankers or relationship managers. These are the professionals who go out and bring in clients with cash or assets – assets under management (AUM). For many of our mainland Chinese, Singaporean and Taiwanese clients, we find that institutional sales professionals are in demand, especially those with native or fluent Mandarin and a portable client base.

Do employers look for existing relationships or ability to generate new relationships with clients?
It’s the ability and capacity to have existing relationships with very rich people in Asia and persuade them – and their friends – to move their money to another bank or finance house. Obviously, if the sales guys can generate new leads and income from new clients, that’s a bonus.

What’s compensation like to move jobs?
It’s around 15 per cent increment. The problem is that people are not very keen on moving for 15 to 20 per cent [salary increases] at the moment, because the market is tough and candidates are very cautious – job stability is important.

Mark Andrews
Director for Banking and Financial Services, Hudson

Where is the demand right now?
We have seen a growth in the international divisions of Chinese banks and securities firms over the past six to nine months.

Recruitment has been across all levels and roles. Mainland banks and securities firms have been looking to enter the Hong Kong market to give their domestic clients access to offshore products, and to give their Hong Kong-based clients access to China. We’ve seen roles in the front office in investment banking, including in ECM [equity capital markets], DCM [debt capital markets], corporate finance, and institutional sales. It’s been a front-to-back office set up, and they are predominantly building up their front-office capability at the moment as well as senior positions in finance, compliance and risk.

Are these firms hiring from scratch?
It’s on a case-by-case basis. We’ve worked with Chinese securities firms that are completely new start-ups, where they’ve transferred someone on the CEO level and there’s been a build out below this individual. They’ve been bringing in candidates from senior director to junior or senior managing director level. The remuneration has been in line with what MDs [managing directors] and directors are being paid at other banks.

So they’re Mandarin-speaking roles?
Yes. In the past, they’ve approached candidates from international banks, but from a cultural and a communication perspective, these hires haven’t always worked out. The focus is upon those who are either from China, Chinese returnees to the region, or speak native Mandarin.