The Skinny on Jobs for Expats in Asia-Pacific

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Expats: Tread carefully

The story goes that there are tons of opportunities to be had for finance professionals looking to move to Asia-Pacific. But the truth is much more complex, says Robert Grandy, Korn/Ferry International’s regional market leader for global financial markets Asia-Pacific.

Grandy is based in the executive recruiter’s Hong Kong offices. In an interview with eFinancialCareers, Grandy noted, “Everyone wants to come here now, and I get lots of resumes from Europeans and Americans with the expectation that the market is better here.” But according to Grandy, the banks that were traditionally adding to staff in Asia-Pacific have slowed their hiring. “The banks are now much more focused on other things than building their teams.”

Language and Experience

The best opportunity to get a post in Asia-Pacific, he says, is to look to your current firm or bank, and scout out a transfer. “For the moment, there simply isn’t a lot of demand for people from outside the region.” But for those originally from Asia-Pacific, with the necessary language skills, and a resume that includes about 10 years or so experience at a top U.S. bank or investment firm and an MBA, then the opportunities are certainly there.

Grandy admits that things are sure to improve at some point for all candidates, and he sees global transaction services as one area that is likely to add personnel. Global transaction services at a big global bank might include such things as cash management, trade finance and securities and fund services. Says Grandy, “Cash management and the trade finance business of the banks have been doing extremely well, and there has been hiring there.” Relationship management and other basic banking services are still in need, and those with a strong credit, corporate banking and risk background are strong candidates.

Asset and Wealth Management Showing Growth

Asset and wealth management may have been the two areas that continue to show growth, even when the other areas slowed hiring. But Grandy believes that a front line wealth management person isn’t what’s needed in Asia-Pacific. Corporate officers and support personnel are more in need in the space. And while candidates inevitably think of China, Hong Kong, Singapore and India for opportunities, he predicts that with the lifting of restrictions on banks in Indonesia, a spate of new jobs are sure to eventually open there. Malaysia and Korea have also seen a bit of hiring activity in the past year, he says.

If you happen to be currently looking for a transfer or return to a home country in Asia-Pacific, Grandy says that it’s best to look at sectors of financial services that are not necessarily transaction driven, at least until the economy picks up.

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