"We have seen a significant increase in the focus on [the mainland] from our financial services clients," says Anthony Thompson, managing director for recruitment firm Michael Page International & Page Personnel. "What we see is a strong demand for candidates who have an understanding of [the mainland] and speak Putonghua. This is true for mid- to senior-level positions."
He adds that Chinese language skills are almost mandatory at all levels of seniority, though they may matter more to front-office roles than middle- and back-office positions.
According to Thompson, there has been considerable growth in demand for talent with mainland experience for front-office related roles in investment banking, including mergers and acquisitions, corporate finance, equity research and transaction banking, and for corporate banking positions such as relationship management.
Foreign exchange traders familiar with the yuan trade and Chinese regulations will also be in demand.
He adds that the huge pent-up demand in financial services last year means there will be slightly fewer positions this year, though a healthy number of opportunities will remain. The jobs are generally based in Hong Kong, but may involve travelling or periodic stays on the mainland.
"We are seeing more demand in Hong Kong than [on the mainland]. In many cases the roles are still based in Hong Kong, but a lot of the activities are based [on the] mainland. I'd expect that it's just going to continue to increase," Thompson says.
Applicants should have an understanding of the mainland market, including the laws, regulations and business culture, and a strong understanding of Hong Kong.
In life insurance, meanwhile, the growing number of inquiries from Chinese tourists has spurred demand for professionals fluent in Putonghua.
"We value the experience and mindset to understand the financial service needs of mainland visitors," says Michael Huddart, executive vice-president and CEO of Manulife in Hong Kong. The company is hiring graduates for roles in actuarial, finance and marketing.
In accounting, mainland experience is "very, very" important, according to Roy Lo, deputy managing partner of Shinewing (HK) CPA, which provides audit, accounting and management consultancy services, and recruits 500 graduates a year in Hong Kong and the mainland. But English skills also matter. "I would not offer a post in my firm to anyone who cannot speak English," Lo says.
"There are many Chinese firms looking to having an [initial public offering]. There are many good jobs and quality engagement in this field." He adds that the jobs are based in Hong Kong, but require travel to the mainland.
- Mid-level managers should embrace any opportunity that gives them exposure to the mainland as this will add value to their résumé.
- Those starting out should join organisations with exposure to the mainland to benefit their careers.
- Mindset, attitude, passion, general competence and abilities are all important in job searches, beyond education and experience.