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Retail, finance to drive hiring in third quarter
Rick Gangwani
update on Saturday, July 2, 2011

According to a recent Manpower survey, Hong Kong will continue to experience steady hiring activity through the third quarter. While banks and wealth management firms are tipped to account for much of the rise, the bulk of recruitment is likely to be seen in the retail sector, where mainland visitors continue to fuel strong demand for luxury goods.

Net Employment Outlook - the difference between the percentage of employers looking to boost their headcount and those who are planning cuts - was 27 per cent for both sectors. But retail reported a marginally rosier forecast, with the seasonally adjusted figures coming in a point higher at 26 per cent.

"Our company is working with a number of retailers that have significant new hiring plans," says Ian Strutton, director of Manpower Professional.

Asked if these could be hampered by the city's high rentals, Strutton indicates that he expects the trend to continue, irrespective of developments in the property market.

"I don't think [property prices] will have much of an impact. Luxury retailers operating and expanding in Asia are quite used to paying high rent," he says.

"At the end of the day, companies are expanding in Hong Kong because the demand is here, which in turn helps assure expansion costs. High rents, meanwhile, are already factored in to operating costs beforehand," he says.

As for the financial sector, Strutton expects a continuation of the robust expansion seen since the end of the downturn, with much of the focus to be centred on services geared towards mainland clients.

"For investment banks, the story is still very much about China," he says. "There's a big pipeline of IPOs in the Hong Kong market, there's the advent and growth of renminbi products, and, of course, Hong Kong's position as the dominant offshore renminbi centre."

As such, Strutton suggests that candidates with mainland experience and a background in dealing with Chinese-currency products are likely to be highly sought after.

In terms of wealth management, the recruitment executive points to an increased demand for frontline relationship managers - again, largely due to an increase in the number of mainland clients.

Financial planners, he adds, will also be in demand.

Looking ahead, Strutton expects to see reduced hiring activity towards the end of the year in line with the seasonal slowdown, as employees wait for their bonuses and hiring managers focus on their strategy for 2012.

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