Even before the pandemic, many companies across different sectors in Hong Kong were already seen to be ramping up their digital transformation to keep pace with current and anticipated market demands.
The COVID-19 crisis and local protests had accelerated the need for remote working and a rapid focus on evaluating and de-risking the end-to-end value chain.
As other industries continue to adjust to the new ways of working and interacting with their stakeholders, the technology industry is also doing their part to address customers’ demands and securing market share.
This is especially so for fintech and insurtech, as traditional firms continue to look at how best to integrate technology and financial services in a way that creates a positive customer experience and drives efficiency and competitiveness.
fintech talent sought after in the midst of pandemic
Hong Kong has always been known as Asia’s finance hub and its internationally-acclaimed technologically advanced centre for logistics and communications. The city boasts a huge network of talent, customers and funding opportunities, making it a relatively easy market for doing business.
While data security and cost-efficiency are strong motivators for banks to digitise, firms are also acknowledging that consumers prefer the efficiency and convenience of managing their finances at their own pace via a central platform. Hence, digital banking has been making headway in Asia with major financial centres introducing digital banking and virtual banking licensing processes even before the pandemic.
As the current pandemic has increased consumer appetite on digital services, we’ve observed more financial services starting to develop and improve the end-user experience for digital-only options. Examples include robo-advisories, open APIs, automated and quick transfers as well as real-time stock quotes.
It does seem that fintechs are giving traditional big banks a run for their money.
Banks are developing novel products and solutions that have great potential for changing the nature of commerce and end-user expectations. Big banks are also facing heightened pressure to maintain a high level of cyber and data security to maintain public confidence in the banking system. When banks are cyber-resilient and are able to respond to any kind of cyber incidents, strong customer relations that are built on trust and confidence will naturally follow.
Nonetheless, it is this competitive business environment that continues to attract firms to establish and expand their APAC footprint from Hong Kong.
To further facilitate the healthy development of the fintech ecosystem in the midst of a pandemic, the Hong Kong government has rolled out a series of supporting financial grants and initiatives. This includes the SME Financing Guarantee Scheme that allows SMEs to tap into loans of up to HK$2 million that are fully guaranteed by the government.
reshaping the business landscape with e-commerce capabilities
COVID-19 has dramatically altered the way people work, shop and play. A February 2020 Coresight Research survey found that 27.5% of Hong Kong internet users were avoiding public places.
E-payment provider Octopus Cards, which accounts for 80% of the city's stored-value facility market, reported that transaction volume and value in January and February has increased 20% and 30% respectively. Similarly, the monthly average transaction amount of the O! ePay Mastercard went up by 60% as well.
Many retailers are pivoting their strategy towards online platforms in a bid to sustain their business in these trying times. Smaller retailers have also started to list their products on high-traffic e-commerce sites such as Taobao and Tmall to sell directly to the end-consumers. These platforms cut out the middle players and create more competition in the retail market.
More established retailers will further invest in perfecting their UI/UX-optimised platform that incorporates digital memberships, payments and supply chain management to fulfill the end-to-end customer experience. This would also create new jobs for more specialised tech experts and have a knock-off effect on other supporting business units such as sales and marketing, human resources and accounting and finance.
The current pandemic has unwittingly become a catalyst in driving people and businesses to adopt technology in their day-to-day. Emerging technologies like the Internet of Things as well as virtual and augmented reality can ride on this efficient network in order to explore many other innovative services.
change in the tech talent landscape
The demand for tech talent is now higher than ever before. The bidding war among companies to attract the best talent would intensify, as employers become more laser-focus on building their data science and process automation capabilities to sustain their business and stay competitive.
However, even when companies are hiring, most talent are not willing to switch employers amidst a period of uncertainty. This trend is highlighted in Randstad’s COVID-19 Workforce Sentiment Survey, where 30% of respondents are willing to wait till the pandemic blows over before deciding on their career options.
Furthermore, the border control has resulted in immense difficulty when it comes to expanding the workforce, especially in new technology such as deep programming and artificial intelligence.
Attractive candidates who are living in Hong Kong will find it relatively easy to secure an interesting job with a salary package that meets their expectations. Professional tech experts may be motivated to find a job if they feel that their current employer is not doing enough to take advantage of the market conditions or if they see an opportunity with a company that prides itself on new and innovative technologies. Candidates are also well aware of their worth in a talent-short labour market and would expect a 10% to 15% salary increment before deciding to switch employers.
There are also a number of job seekers with different work backgrounds and experiences that are drawn to the excitement and novelty that tech firms are able to offer. The increasing dependence from companies on digital technology to emerge stronger from this pandemic had also given the perception that a career in tech would seem more stable than others.
Candidates who are equipped with transferable skills and experience, demonstrate a positive learning attitude and have managed their career expectations are more likely to find an entry into the tech sector. Companies can also offer contracting roles to these job seekers as a way to build their internal talent pipeline and ensure business continuity in a cost-efficient manner.
leveling the game in your organisation
In such uncertain times, it becomes more crucial than ever to ensure that the entire workforce is digitally-skilled to keep pace with market conditions and meet the company’s growth plans. As the nature of jobs starts to shift, companies should up the game by providing their employees with the flexibility to explore and develop new tech. Employees from other business departments can also collaborate with tech teams to increase their digital capabilities.
Besides talent attraction, employers should also invest in robust employee training and development programmes to ensure the workforce is equipped with the skills to stay competitive and drive productivity. Internally, companies can look into conducting on-the-job training to allow for knowledge flow between co-workers.
When companies work towards building a highly-skilled workforce, it would lead to more competition, better collaboration and higher productivity. This will further secure and elevate Hong Kong’s position as an attractive financial and communications APAC hub.
If you’re hiring and interested to find out more about our talent recruitment and management services, feel free to get in touch.
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The Randstad Blue Suite is a collection of personal insights from the Randstad leadership team.