Lacklustre forecasts and highly publicised job cuts in the banking industry may give the impression the finance sector has gone into a tailspin, but this is not the case, according to recruiters.
Anthony Thompson, managing director at recruitment firm Michael Page International, believes that despite concerns about the strength of global markets, strong economic growth in China continues to fuel business activity in Hong Kong.
"Financial services professionals with Mandarin language skills and regional experience are increasingly required to manage client relationships in Greater China and across the Asia Pacific region," says Thompson.
In addition, he says experienced credit risk professionals, analysts and associate-level bankers with fluent Mandarin language skills are considered valuable by employers in Hong Kong. There is also demand for compliance professionals with private banking experience. And given the increasing number of requirements coming from local and international regulatory bodies, there is a growing demand for banking professionals with regulatory reporting experience.
Emma Charnock, regional director of Hays recruitment firm in Hong Kong and China, has also noticed pockets of active hiring. "The private banking sector and risk management hiring remain busy. In other areas, we are mainly seeing demand for strategic positions in M&As and IPOs. We also see demand for experienced bilingual professionals in areas including advisory, debt markets, and commercial and government papers, commodities and electronic trading," she says.
Ian Strutton, director of Experis Hong Kong, says: "What we are mainly seeing at the moment is retrenchment and downsizing in the investment banking industry in areas where there is very little or no growth. In other areas of retail and commercial banking, while there has been a flattening out of hiring activities, there is still demand for the `right' people to fill positions in strategic roles.
"Clearly, there are areas of business that have impacted banks globally - you could say this is a result of banks having expanded too much over the past couple of years. But in private banking, in many areas of commercial banking such as risk and compliance, there is still a reasonable amount of hiring activity," Strutton adds.
Reflecting market sentiments, when bankers in demand do move between firms, they are typically being offered an 8 per cent to15 per cent salary increase compared with 25 per cent to 30 per cent during an upswing, he says.