Hong Kong’s importance as a regional financial hub is increasing, creating significant career opportunities for professionals in the sector. The large international banks are expanding their private wealth arms as they look to capture the Mainland Chinese market, while insurers are also growing their base in the city.
Gin Sun, Associate Director with recruitment agency Michael Page in Hong Kong, says: “One of the trends in private wealth in Hong Kong is that international banks are hiring a lot more aggressively.” Banks not only view Hong Kong as a private banking hub for Mainland China, but also for Taiwan and South East Asia, she says.
Private banks are looking for candidates ranging from assistant relationship managers, to client due-diligence professionals, to private wealth bankers. The likes of US and European investment banks as well as European private banks.
The need for talent has led to a competitive hiring market, with private banks looking to poach staff from other firms, because they need people who are already experienced in client-facing roles, and who know the onboarding procedures.
“It is quite a specific skill set they want, so the salary increment has suddenly jacked up from 10% to up to 20% now,” says Sun. “There’s a shortage of good candidates, especially for the assistant relationship manager roles, and demand has surged. There is a real need to find these candidates.”
Another upward trend in the sector is demand for talent from family offices. Sun explains: “Family offices are in expansion mode at the moment. It started last year, and we see it continuing as an increasing trend for the next two years.”
Some of the demand is being driven by Hong Kong tycoons setting up more than one family office because they are now in the second or third generation of the wealth, and different parts of the family want their own office. “There’s also a lot of new wealth coming from China, and these people want to set up a family investment hub in Hong Kong to handle offshore investments,” says Sun.
She adds that typically either an asset management company will be set up to manage the wealth of multiple families, or they will set up their own family office in Hong Kong. They tend to hire their own investment banking and private equity candidates to handle their investments, as well as building up a small team of financial professionals to look at tax structuring and setting up a trust.
“There is an increasing number of these roles in the market at the moment,” says Sun. People setting up family offices prefer their investment directors to have Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission licenses Type 4 and Type 9, so that they can manage other parties’ assets, she adds.
For the finance talent, family offices want people who have previously worked in private equity, finance or accounting, and who have a strong employment history with a listed company, reporting directly to a chairman.
Candidates also need to speak English, as well as either Cantonese or Mandarin. “English is essential as a lot of the investments are overseas, and they need to be able to speak to tax advisors outside of Hong Kong, such as in the Cayman Islands, or business partners overseas,” says Sun.
The insurance sector is also currently in expansion mode in Hong Kong. “In the past three to six months we have seen quite active expansion plans from Chinese General and Life Insurance companies,” says Sun. “They want to expand both the back-office side of things and the frontline sales staff.”
For example, there is a top-five Chinese life insurer announcing their plans to increase its front-line sales headcount in Hong Kong by at least 100 people in the first six months of this year, she adds. It is looking for both people with experience in the insurance industry, as well as new joiners, who are preferably bilingual in Cantonese and Mandarin.
In their middle offices, financial services firms are also looking to recruit financial risk managers and IT auditors. “There is an increasing need to find IT auditors for the banks. Not everyone who does IT audit comes from an external audit background, some of them come from computer engineering or have a related degree, and achieve the Certified Information Systems Auditor qualification,” she says.
Sun thinks Hong Kong offers a lot of opportunities to well-qualified candidates. “International banks have their APAC hub in Hong Kong, so you get a lot of exposure here,” she says. “It’s also the best place to tap into the Chinese market or help the Chinese tap into the overseas market.”
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