Speak an Asian Language? You've Got Options

eFC logo

This is a good time for financial professionals who are fluent in Chinese, Japanese or other Asian languages.

Why? Consider: Big Japanese banks may pump billions of dollars into struggling Wall Street firms, says the Times of London. The trade deficit with China continues to break records and Chinese markets attract U.S. investors worried about volatile stocks. South Korea's economy continues to be strong, as is Taiwan's.

Though there are openings in the San Francisco area, there also are opportunities in New York from both U.S. and Asian firms. Conversely, there also is a demand for candidates in Asia as well, recruiters say.

"We have had difficulties in the States finding bilingual candidates, but it has gotten better," says Andy Hsu, a manager at recruiter Michael Page International in New York. "The only way we can find quality bilingual candidates is through a lot of referrals."

Though being fluent in Asian languages is a plus, it isn't a necessity to get hired by Asian firms since Japanese and Chinese are among the most difficult languages for native English speakers to learn. Ames Gross, president of Pacific Bridge, a recruiting firm specializing in Asia, points out it takes 10 years to become fluent in Chinese.

But candidates looking to work for Asian firms, or firms doing business there, should familiarize themselves with Asian culture and business customs. "Otherwise, the candidate will not succeed," says Bob Kobayashi, a senior partner with Nosal Partners, LLC., a San Francisco-based recruiting firm.

Working overseas may be the ticket for adventurous types or foreign nationals who want to return home. The appeal is understandable: While the U.S. teeters on the brink of recession, China's economy expanded more than 11 percent for the fourth straight quarter, says Bloomberg News. Japan's economy continues to expand, as well, though growth is moderating.

"When you have this kind of growth, more and more people are interested in working in the industry in China, Hong Kong and Singapore," observes Gross.