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Wall Street, Hong Kong Lead Banks' Business School Hiring Surge

Wall Street banking behemoths spin hiring machines, while Hong Kong finance sector turns to business schools for talent.

Wed Jul 22 2015

Talk of Hong Kong as a banking centre recently has focused on the extraordinary collapse of China’s stock markets. Yet the bulge bracket banks continue to place Hong Kong in their crosshairs — and this is opening up recruitment at banks, brokerages and asset managers.

The Asian city is at the forefront of a revival in global banking recruitment at the world’s top business schools, along with New York, where employment surged on Wall Street last year for the first time since 2011.

Recruiters note an increase in hiring from Chinese banks and investment firms both in Hong Kong and from the mainland. “There are more and more Chinese financial institutions which are listing in Hong Kong, and they are looking for talent,” says Lawrence Chan, a director at Hong Kong’s CUHK Business School.

International lenders are also setting their sights on China, with the likes of HSBC and Société Générale shifting resources to Asian markets.

Against this backdrop, Chinese language skills are a hot commodity. “Chinese is a distinctive advantage,” Lawrence says. Employers have also sought students who are able to speak Indonesian or Vietnamese, he says. About 40% of CUHK graduates are employed in finance; 20% at investment banks.

On Wall Street, investment banking recruitment is near pre-crisis levels at some schools.

“In New York, the banks have come back,” says Roxanne Hori, associate dean of career services and corporate relations at NYU Stern, which expects 27% of its MBAs to join investment banks this year.

The biggest lenders like Bank of America, JP Morgan and Citi are hiring the most. Yet students have opportunities at middle market firms and at smaller boutiques, says Regina Resnick, associate dean for the Career Management Center at Columbia Business School.

“With the rebounding of the overall economy and a strong IPO market, firms are hiring again in greater numbers,” she says.

Up to 30% of students at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business are employed in finance, and Wall Street recruiters are starting to take notice of the Washington based institution. “Banking recruiting at Georgetown continues to build,” says Jennifer Boynton, assistant dean of MBA career management.

Outside of traditional banking sectors there are growing opportunities in risk management and compliance functions, she notes. Sarah Juillet, director of postgraduate careers at London’s Cass Business School, highlights the growing popularity of client-focused roles, and continued interest in private equity.

Yet the jobs for MBAs in the City are arguably less, with a rise in hiring undergraduates to fill associate and analyst — the entry level — positions at top banks.

“The UK has always had a history of targeting undergraduates or master’s students to fill entry level talent pipelines, then promoting them to associate level jobs,” says Mark Davies, employer relations manager at Imperial College Business School in London.

Business schools remain optimistic, however. “Banking recruitment is very strong,” says Christian Dummett, head of finance careers at London Business School. “The key driver is a marked increase in M&A activity globally.”