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MBA Jobs: Hong Kong Stock Leads Finance Hiring Surge In China

Booming Chinese stock markets have boosted the job markets in Hong Kong and Shanghai. But banks, brokerages and asset managers are struggling to find fluent Mandarin speakers.

China’s frothy stock markets have boosted the job market in Hong Kong, with banks and other finance institutions ramping up recruitment of candidates who can bridge China with global capital markets.

The Shanghai Composite stock market has more than doubled over the past year, pushing China to be rated as best performing stock market globally.

The opening in 2014 of the Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect has drawn more attention to Asia’s second largest stock market. The cross-border share trading link has given more foreign investors access to hundreds of Shanghai-listed stocks.

HSBC is recruiting between 10 and 15 new analysts to cover Chinese stocks. Barclays said this month it was expanded its Asian equities unit, although it is slashing investment banking jobs as part of a restructuring. Barclays may be profiting from Standard Chartered’s decision to close its equities division, leading to around 100 job losses in Hong Kong.

The stock connect also drove a small increase in recruitment of project managers for senior level roles in Hong Kong, according to Ambition, a financial services recruitment consultant in Hong Kong.

Brokerages, insurers and asset managers in China are expected to build up capabilities outside of the mainland, creating extra demand for bilingual analysts and those with international banking experience.

Huatai Securities, a broker expected to float in Hong Kong in June, has made high-profile appointments.

Liberty Mutual, the insurer, has been recruiting MBAs from Australian business schools for its country leadership program across Asia Pacific, said John Gurskey, director of career management at Melbourne Business School.

Eric Chang, dean of the University of Hong Kong’s Faculty of Business and Economics, said that the business school is “riding on Hong Kong’s status as one of the largest financial centres” and works with a number of top banks to recruit students including Citi.

But banks face challenges in finding the required talent — analysts and equity salespeople who have fluent Mandarin and English, and are comfortable working outside mainland China. There is a strong demand for native language speakers in Hong Kong across the board, according to the Emerging Markets Institute at INSEAD, the global business school.

Richard Bisset, a career consultant at China Europe International Business School, based in Shanghai, said that speaking Mandarin is an advantage for MBAs in the city but he added that it is not essential.

In Hong Kong demand for finance and accounting professionals is at a three-year high, with 53% of companies in the sectors saying they planned to expand teams in the first half of this year, according to recruitment firm Robert Half.

Pallavi Anand, managing director for Robert Half in Hong Kong, said companies are actively hiring to fill newly created positions as part of their growth strategies.

“There are many new opportunities in the employment market for people willing to come in and prove themselves in a new role,” she said.

Paul Lyons, co-founder at recruiter Ambition, said in the firm’s Hong Kong market trends report that finance houses have focused hiring for risk and compliance functions.  

“In the non-banking financial services sector, the hedge funds, insurance, and investment management companies continue to add headcount across the board,” he added.  

In the first quarter, legal and compliance recruitment increased by 38% in Hong Kong in terms of the number of job vacancies advertised, according to Hong Kong recruitment consultancy Robert Walters.

“Compliance professionals were most sought-after by the buy-side and private equity firms,” said Matthew Bennett, managing director for greater China.

Professor Jitendra Singh, dean of HKUST Business School, believes local schools will profit from the city’s thriving financial market: “We are ideally placed to meet the recruitment, training and development needs of such a vibrant industry,” he said.

Approximately 70 of the world’s top-100 banks have established a presence in Hong Kong, he added.

Joep Elemans, director of career relations at Rotterdam School of Management in Europe, said most investment banking opportunities for MBAs are coming from the Asia Pacific regions.

Competition for talent in Hong Kong has seen salaries surge in some financial sectors. “Hong Kong is seeing moderate growth in wages across most positions,” said Robert Half’s Pallavi.

Finding and attracting the right talent is becoming increasingly complex, requiring both a competitive employee offering and a multifaceted sourcing strategy.

Tulika Tripathi, Asian managing director at Hudson, a talent solutions company, said: “The number one motivating factor for Hong Kong professionals today is still money.”  

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