The Big Four consultancies have been trumpeting their global growth strategies over the past year, with their hiring plans largely eclipsing those of the global banks.
Deloitte in Asia Pacific is a case in point. The firm has been expanding its global financial services industry (GFSI) practice across the region for the past year and is still busy recruiting many more people.
Hong Kong-based Chris Harvey, the global leader of financial services at Deloitte, talks to us about why he’s hiring in APAC and what kind of candidates he’s looking for.
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You moved to Asia from the UK in 2013 – how have you built up the GFSI practice since then?
GFSI is by far our largest industry, contributing 26% to our global revenues. About two years ago we initiated a strategic review of our practice in developing markets, particularly in APAC because we believe there’s a significant opportunity to support our clients here as they grow. We initial prioritised Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia. I also felt it was important, both from a market and internal perspective, to demonstrate our commitment to Asia by relocating our GFSI headquarters to Hong Kong. In the past nine months alone in Hong Kong we’re hired 90 employees and 10 partners.
What are you recruitment plans going forward?
We need more people across Asia Pacific in GFSI. We’re hiring in Hong Kong, Singapore and Southeast Asia, Japan, Australia and of course mainland China. At the most basic level the recruitment is revenue driven – we need more people on the ground to grow revenue. We have set ambitious goals for APAC over the next three to five years: triple our business here both in terms of revenue and people.
Which skills are in demand?
GFSI provides consulting and advisory services focused on the banking and insurance sectors. Within that, risk and regulatory compliance consultants are in demand, as is anything operations or IT related. Data analytics is a hot topic and we’re building strengths in that area too.
Are you hiring people from banks?
Yes. We have a good range of people with financial-services backgrounds and advisory backgrounds, as well as many who have already experienced both sectors before they’ve joined us, so we want to continue this mix.
There’s a skill shortage in functions like compliance – how challenging is it to hire the best candidates?
Many of the skills we want are in demand, not just from other consultancies, but from the banks themselves and from infrastructure companies. But we’ve been successful so far in attracting candidates. If you come from the banking sector, an attraction of working here is the variety of the work – you won’t get stuck in a repetitive job doing the same thing day after day. You’re also surrounded by results-focused people, so we have to make sure you have the right mindset to thrive in that environment. Most hiring has been via our own networks – it’s hard to find an external recruitment agency who is conversant with the type of people we want.
How does the job market in Asia compare with more established markets?
Historically, our practices in APAC have been smaller and more audit-focused. This is a typical market-entry scenario for consultants like us – the whole advisory space is less well developed in Asia; it hasn’t been around here for as long as in the US and UK, for example. So although there’s no lack of talent here, there’s a lack of senior people with strong advisory experience in the industries we specialise in. The shortage applies across countries, including Singapore and Hong Kong, but is more severe in mainland China and other emerging markets. When we hire new staff we need to make sure that we surround them with the experienced people we already have.
To what extent do you internally relocate staff into Asian jobs?
We do internal transfers mainly at the more senior level and we make sure that they have specific skills that we can’t find in the local market and that a significant amount of knowledge transfer to local staff is built into their contract. Our internal moves in the region are mainly between Asian countries. We have done little relocation from outside of Asia recently, but we have moved Western expats already in the region or those who have had Asian experience in the past.
What key piece of advice would you give to someone moving to Asia to join your team?
As trite as it may sound, there are still some people who think of Asia as one country, whereas the variety of markets within Asia is enormous. The ways of doing business are just as different across Asia as they are across Europe. Having said that, many of our clients in Asia are multi-national companies and we need people who have multi-national, not just local, experience to work with them.