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Banking on talent mobility
Published on Friday, 08 Jul 2011
Hong Kong has a shortage of experienced, qualified talent, and thus look overseas to fill the gaps. Employers welcome professionals who are culturally tuned in to the region, have strong language skills and also understand Western banking models.
Photo: AFP
Jonathan Nicholson

The expanding cosmopolitan nature of the banking industry is creating job opportunities for career-orientated professionals seeking to broaden their knowledge and skills by working overseas.

According to Jonathan Nicholson, group managing director at finance recruitment firm Astbury Marsden, over the past seven or eight years, banks have become more multicultural and global in their thinking, which has created opportunities for mobility within the banking industry.

"We have seen several large banking organisations move towards a convergence of cultures, and adopt practices to transfer knowledge globally, which has led to people from different regions moving more frequently," says Nicholson. "We see a steady stream of talent moving from West to East, but there is also a migration of talent moving in the other direction," he adds.

He says in the same way that bankers from Europe and the US move to Asia to gain experience, capable, ambitious Asians are looking to London and New York to broaden their understanding of the global banking business.

"Within the large global banks, there are few senior heads of functions that have not gained experience through working outside of their home base. Someone who has spent four or five years rounding out their knowledge away from their home market will certainly be able to offer employers an interesting CV and give their promotion prospects a worthwhile boost," he says.

Nicholson says London and New York remain the world's largest financial centres. But given the robust growth projections for Asia, major financial hubs such as Hong Kong will likely see their global influence increase over time. He says globalisation in the banking industry and rapid growth in Asia have created a demand for qualified Asian banking professionals with overseas experience.

"While the number of Asian banking professionals moving to Europe and the US is on the rise, far larger numbers of bankers are moving to Asia. Employers seeking the 'perfect fit' are looking for qualified professionals that are culturally tuned in to the region, have strong language skills and also understand Western banking models. The combination is considered a perfect blend, but very hard to find," says Nicholson.

Driven by Hong Kong's shortage of experienced, qualified talent, Nicholson says front, middle and back office bankers are in demand. "When banks are unable to fill the gaps locally, they look overseas," he adds, even though expatriate privileges have been curtailed.