Attractive remuneration packages offered by banks are likely to play an important part in the first six months of this year, but employees are also keeping a close watch on job security and the way bonuses are paid.
Anthony Thompson, managing director, Hong Kong and Southern China, of recruitment consultancy Michael Page International, says salaries are always an issue when hiring activities exceed available talent. "In some ways it feels like the financial crisis never happened. For those with the right skills set and performance achievement, they can expect to be well looked after by their employers or, in the case of those looking for employment opportunities, offered attractive salaries to join an organisation," Thompson says.
There is also the issue of job security. "Even if better salaries are on offer, there are those who would be apprehensive about moving. They perceive that 'last-in, first-out' still exists. If you have been in a role for the past 18 months, you are probably feeling secure because you have just survived the worst of the crisis," Thompson says. "Why put that security at risk by leaving for another job?"
He also expects to see a change in the way that bonuses are paid, which could be structured as a mixture of cash and stock options. "Part stock and part cash can cement employee loyalty providing the employee thinks the bank has the ability to provide an attractive long-term future and the targets required to benefit from stock options are not unrealistic," Thompson says.
"There is a fair amount of expectation management that needs to be undertaken by banks because many recipients of bonuses use the cash for specific needs such as a tax payment. Banks that have performed well could be expected to pay decent bonuses, but others that have not performed so well may struggle," Thompson says. "This could generate people movement as disgruntled or disappointed employees look for new opportunities."
In the investment-banking arena, recruiters report Barclays, Standard Chartered and Japanese brokerage Daiwa Securities Group have been offering aggressive salaries, with some bankers being offered multiyear guarantees on bonuses.
Eunice Ng, director, Pacific, at Avanza Consulting, believes the cost of talent acquisition will be a key concern. "Experienced candidates with sought-after skills could be in line for significant pay rises. There will also be significant competition for the same type of people, so compensation plans would be closely looked at," she says.
Ng says that while some candidates will remain cautious until they see their performance/bonus results, others will be looking to benefit from increased salary offers. Demand for experienced relationship managers, sales, and traders with a strong record of accomplishment across product, corporate and commercial, and consumer-banking professionals is expected to drive up salaries. "Banks are prepared to pay higher salaries, but they also expect exceptional talent," Ng says.