For Recruiters
Banks are recruiting in Hong Kong, but they're less keen than ever on expats.

It's harder to get hired in Hong Kong if you're not mainland Chinese

Investment banks in Hong Kong are stepping-up recruitment of vice presidents and associates. If you’re a mandarin speaker with client relationships, you’ll be more in demand than ever.

According to recruitment firm Michael Page’s Hong Kong Talent Trends survey, more than a third of financial services companies in Hong Kong expect headcount to increase on average by 9% in 2021.

The three-month period between March and June is typically the busiest for Hong Kong banking recruitment . “In terms of recruitment we’re coming from a pretty low base compared with 2020, but we are seeing a rebound in hiring activity,” says John Mullally, regional Director, Southern China & Hong Kong Financial Services at Robert Walters.

If you’re looking to switch firms, then Mandarin skills remain key as banks look to list Chinese companies in Hong Kong or build their presence on the mainland.

Alongside Mandarin, it will help to have sector coverage experience across the technology, media and telecoms (TMT) or healthcare sectors, as well as client-facing experience and a strong network.

Chinese banks are also looking to hire in Hong Kong after boosting their share of capital markets and advisory work in 2020 when Chinese companies led the way in a series of Hong Kong listing.  “In terms of hiring trends, while International banks elected a more conservative approach by freezing their headcount, Chinese banking institutions are taking the opportunity to ramp up recruitment,”  said Michael Page.

By contrast, expats without the necessary language skills and/or China network could find their options increasingly limited. “We’re seeing a thinning out of expats, especially amongst the senior ranks, with people either leaving the industry or looking to return home,” says Mullally.

This trend is likely to continue. Mullally reckons that up to 80% of incoming analysts at investment banks this summer will be mainland Chinese, educated either in the country’s universities or abroad.  This intake will rise through the banks so that ultimately, mainland Chinese will also occupy many of the senior positions at Western banks.

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Photo by SHUJA OFFICIAL on Unsplash


AUTHORDavid Rothnie Insider Comment
  • Ne
    Neo darren
    7 March 2021

    50 years ago Singapore has the foresight to implement mandarin and simplified writing as official language and ban media from using dialect or cantonese. Therefore why Hong Kong knowing as early as 1980 that China will take over as well as thier close proximity did not revamp thier language to ride the China wave. The pride of thier cantonese superiority in showbiz and mastery of traditional writing could be stumbling block to pivot to mandarin and simplified writing.

  • Zi
    5 March 2021

    And no mention of the few million or so local work force...?

  • Ma
    Marcin W
    5 March 2021

    Sounds lilebthe communists are cutting out Hong Kongers already. Shame

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