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Chris Mead

Asian Banking & Finance hiring hotspots

BY CHRIS MEAD

Increasing market strength and new government regulation will see new permanent roles created this quarter in China.

With most of the major banks looking to expand their front office, Relationship Managers and candidates with corporate banking and product sales experience will be in high demand. In Beijing, many banks are opening non-banking financial institutions to target insurance firms and brokers. Thus candidates with good banking experience and insurance knowledge are also highly sought after.

New regulatory controls on property purchasing will see consumers exploring alternative investment options such as bonds and equities. This will create demand for candidates with relevant specialist experience.

Finally, experienced risk professionals within the insurance industry will be an area of demand given the severe shortage of such candidates in this relatively new field in China.

Turning to Hong Kong, many employers have indicated that their expansion plans include new headcounts, while some of the major banks have undertaken a total restructure. Add lower bonus payments than employees were expecting, and the resulting candidate movement will add to the already active market.

Demand will be highest this quarter for Product Controllers with exotic product knowledge and Internal Auditors with capital markets product knowledge. Financial Reporting and also Regulatory Reporting skills are also in short supply.

Meanwhile, a number of Chinese firms are working towards IPO and this creates vacancies on the advisory side. As debt markets continue to recover, there are requirements for candidates experienced in Structured Finance, Fixed Income, Corporate Finance and Equities.

In Japan, the focus over the next few months is likely to be on replacement roles as companies rebuild their teams. The approval process for recruitment plans is somewhat slower than usual, but some new roles have been approved and will be filled this quarter.

For example, experienced Fixed Income professionals are in demand and there is a constant requirement for experienced bilingual Research Analysts in some trading areas. Bilingual Product Controllers are in short supply and are highly regarded by any house with a derivative trading business.

Many companies will also begin to recruit for Financial Planning and Analysis professionals after budgets are finalised in April.

Bilingual Japanese/English skills will remain a focus of demand, as will bi-cultural candidates to work in international companies. There is also a high demand for Japanese who have experience working overseas.

Turning to Singapore, the anticipated post-bonus fall out has started, creating replacement roles. But despite headcount being high on the agenda, there is unlikely to be many newly created roles; the intention to hire is there but there is no rush to proceed.

As large corporate firms go through a growth period following strong financial results, many of the Singapore banks are trying to gain a competitive edge by winning their business. Individuals experienced in transaction banking, wealth management, commodities, specialised finance and credit risk management are all in demand as many of the world's major players announce growth and development plans in this sector.

In addition, Singapore is fast becoming a hub for the commodities area, with firms recognising significant opportunities arising from global commodities markets. This is across varied product classes, for example oil, metals and derivatives.

Structured trade finance, export finance and project finance are specialised areas experiencing growth and as a result there is increasing demand for professionals with strong networks and proven origination and execution experience. As well as this, due to the focus and reinforcement of capital regulations, there is a growing demand for senior banking professionals with strong regulatory and risk management experience, particularly in corporate credit risk, portfolio risk, compliance and economic capital.

Finally, IFRS Advisory/Accounting Policy candidates are well regarded. Product Control, Internal Auditors and Risk Managers are also major areas of focus.

Finance technology
Finance technology is an active area of recruitment across Hong Kong, Japan, and in particular Singapore. In Hong Kong, new projects are launching and candidates are looking at their post-bonus options. Asset class specific Application Developers and Business Analysts are in demand as more projects get underway. Meanwhile in Japan, candidates with strong user and customer facing skills are in high demand. This is an area where firms are trying to claim market share both in Tokyo and within Asia Pacific, although the skill shortage in this sector will drive firms to look outside the industry for good language and technical skills.

The relocation of headcount to Singapore for some banks is leading to large scale recruitment drives with the need to quickly build up teams with experienced resources. Java and C# .Net developers are well regarded as the increase in electronic banking continues. Grid computing is also becoming more common with a need for business facing programmers with specific experience in this area.

Vendor led technologies such as Murex and Wall St are still popular and technical consultants and Project Managers experienced in upgrades or implementations are sought after.

Employer trends
In an attempt to prevent the traditional candidate drain after bonuses were paid in February and March, employers have been honing their retention strategies. Promotions, internal mobility, training and development, and attractive salaries are offered by some employers to retain candidates in key positions.

In terms of attraction, more employers are engaging with international recruiters to ensure they can source and recruit top quality professionals. Recruitment timeframes have decreased to try and attract quality applicants ahead of competitors. A number of employers are starting the recruitment process early, or bringing in candidates from overseas.

Candidate trends
Overseas candidates are expressing interest in relocating to Asia, but there is still a mismatch between their salary expectations and market rates. This is normally overcome during the first interview. This interest from international talent is expected to continue to grow as economic expansion gains speed in Asia.

Quality candidates are still in short supply and typically receive multiple job offers. Candidates have more choice, and also need to consider counter offers since employers would rather retain their top talent than replace them.

The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Asian Banking & Finance. The author was not remunerated for this article.

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Chris Mead

Chris Mead

Chris Mead, Regional Director at one of the world’s leading recruiting company. Hays in South East Asia

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