Desperate European bankers taking economy flights to Sydney

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If you are planning a move to Australia, get set to cover your own costs and don’t go overboard with your pay demands.

Lured by a relatively healthy economy, stable domestic banks, and salaries paid in the booming Aussie dollar, international candidates are sending their CVs Down Under in record numbers, according to 13 senior human resources professionals from large, mainly global, financial institutions who attended a recent eFinancialCareers round table.

The delegates, who were based in Sydney and asked not to be named, agreed that they were struggling to sift through foreign resumes. A representative from a European bank said applications from overseas-based candidates for senior roles had risen by about two-thirds over the past year.

“We’ve also seen a massive increase, especially for internal transfers,” said her counterpart from a US bulge-bracket firm. “Interestingly, these folks aren’t just the usually suspects – British, Irish and Asian professionals – we’re also getting more and more applications from countries like Italy and France. We didn’t see nearly as much of this as recently as two years ago,” she added.

Some sought-after jobs in Australia, such as project management and risk, have globally transferable skills. But it's harder for international candidates to clinch client-facing roles, said an HR person from a large Australian bank. “For example, our focus this year, and the focus of other domestic banks in Australia, is on sales and relationship-manager roles in corporate banking,” she said. “Locally-based professionals are much preferred in these jobs because they bring local clients with them."

Roundtable delegates dished up another warning to budding expats: don’t demand too much money. One of them remarked: “Foreign candidates are asking for unrealistic salaries that are even higher than the market rate here.”

While employees who are relocating within their current company can still expect a basic transfer package (flights and shipping) to Australia, some firms will no longer cover these costs for all their new recruits, especially junior ones.

And you can forget living it up on a full-blown expat allowance (think housing costs, school fees). “I still talk to people who expect the same sort of benefits they might have got in 2006 during the boom in banking,” said a roundtable delegate. “Unless you are an amazing and very senior candidate, you aren’t going to get any of that.”

Another attendee from an international bank added: “We still offer transfer packages, but they’ve been scaled back. Your business-class flight here is now economy class. If you want to come to Australia, it’s not a free ride.”

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