Considering all factors except for COVID, 76% of attendees in our recent webinar said that they would rather work in Hong Kong SAR than in Singapore.

Despite the appeal of Hong Kong SAR’s job market, there is still a talent shortage in the city. In a competitive job market, it can be a major challenge for businesses to find qualified candidates.

We invited Raffat Raza from Manulife and Alex Bowen from HSBC’s PayMe to speak at a webinar with HR professionals and hiring managers about Hong Kong’s appeal as a city to work and live in as well as talent strategies like attraction and retention tactics within the banking and financial services industry.

While both speakers agreed that each city has its own unique appeal to banking and finance professionals, they also said that it is not uncommon for people living in metropolitan areas to relocate for work in search of better opportunities.

Raza aptly pointed out, “The grass always looks greener on the other side” but stood firmly that Hong Kong SAR remains an attractive city with unique career opportunities in the Asia Pacific (APAC).

job seekers stay in hong kong for their social circles
job seekers stay in hong kong for their social circles

In another poll during the webinar, 42% of attendees revealed that they plan to stay and work in Hong Kong SAR because of their social circles. 32% said that the city offers very appealing career opportunities. 10% said they are thinking about relocating out of Hong Kong SAR.

the job market is still thriving in hong kong

Hong Kong SAR is a powerhouse of skilled and competitive talent within APAC, and for good reasons. The city prides itself on its strong and robust financial services industry, with 28% higher in asset under management value and 4 times more initial public offerings (IPO) deals than Singapore last year.

Bowen mentioned that Hong Kong SAR is home to many digital banks and fintechs that are at different levels of maturity, which continues to create a wide range of new and exciting job opportunities for local talent to choose from and thrive in.

With the increasing number of new streams within fintech which stretches from payments to buy-now-pay-later, Bowen and Bharisha Mirpuri, Senior Client Solutions Manager at Randstad Hong Kong, both agreed that new innovations would make the fintech companies in Hong Kong and the banking industry much livelier and more competitive.

talent shortage in hong kong
talent shortage in hong kong

navigating talent trends as an incumbent versus a small fintech firm 

Overall, the panellists echoed that other industries such as property and energy are taking the lead with talent attraction in Hong Kong SAR as they often offer very stable jobs. The banking and financial industry, on the other hand, is a little more exposed to volatility as seen with the crypto winter and fears of recession.

As an incumbent financial institution, Manulife has the advantage of being able to use a large amount of data to unlock new opportunities that will create a better customer experience, according to Raza. He also shared that smaller businesses and start-ups have to be more innovative when it comes to creating new products, solutions and experiences as they are building the blocks from the ground up.

However, that doesn’t mean that Raza is resting on his laurels, hinting that start-ups are very innovative and competitive in nature, which would create new competition in the market that will give large organisations a run for their money.

is language proficiency a problem for talent looking to move to Hong Kong?

It’s still a prerequisite for talent to be proficient in either Mandarin or Cantonese if they wish to be based in Hong Kong just so that they can navigate the local business and social climates. This is especially true for customer-facing positions like front office professionals and know-your-customer officers, who may need to be bilingual or even trilingual.

“For-profit organisations are still business-based," Raza said during the webinar. If the company wishes to grow a business there, then it needs to have people with the right language skills for relevant roles. If the talent wishes to be based in Tokyo, they’ll have to be proficient in Japanese, so (this requirement) is not unique to Hong Kong.”

He went on to share that both Manulife and HSBC are big companies with presence in multiple countries and markets, and that there are enough opportunities for talent whose first language is English. Bowen also shared that he had plenty of career growth opportunities since English is the first language used to conduct business in Hong Kong SAR.

banks and fintechs are doing more to retain talent

Raza echoed similar sentiments, saying that, “any large company is a relatively good paymaster, so it takes more than salary to retain talent. Apart from just the salary itself, the people have to buy into the culture.” To Manulife, it’s important that the employees are embedded in the purpose and values of the company, which is a promise that the organisation will be there when the customers and policy holders need them.

when it comes to counter offers, go back to understand the push factors

Banks and investment firms as well as fintech companies in Hong Kong SAR are competing with tech companies in attracting digitally-adept talent. In a climate where qualified and skilled talent are hard to come by, many banks and financial services companies are offering highly-attractive counter offers to retain and cope up with the talent shortage.

To the panellists, counter offers are a reality of life. Even if they work tirelessly to provide a positive candidate and employee experience, there will always be room for improvement. No matter how attractive the company is, there is always something better out there for employees.

According to Manulife's Raza, the best approach to dealing with an exiting employee is not to only increase their salary, but to go back a few months to understand the motivators of the employee to want to leave the company. “Most of the time, the decision was already made six months ago, so you need to really understand what happened back then - did they miss out on an opportunity to be promoted or is their salary increment reasonable enough?”

He also said that if employers find out that it’s because they have not done enough to create the best employee experience that they could possibly offer, then an exiting employee should serve as a “wake up call” to the organisation’s ability to effectively retain their talent.

communicating your company’s EVP to prospective candidates

57% of the webinar participants said that they communicate their company’s employee value propositions (EVPs) to prospective candidates on their careers website, 29% said that they engage recruitment services and 14% said that they assumed that the job seekers already knew.

Mimi Chak, the moderator for the webinar shared that she had a candidate reject the offer from a company even though they offered a 42% salary increment because of poor company culture that they heard through word-of-mouth.

Mirpuri of Randstad Hong Kong added that it’s important to incorporate the company’s EVP into the whole hiring process, but it should be highlighted as early as possible, starting from the job description itself.

Employers tend to include only core values and mission in job advertisements, and often omit compelling information such as career growth opportunities and links to social media and videos to promote the company’s culture. “Hiring is very similar to selling, you highlight the key aspects that the company can offer to attract the right talent and groom them into valued employees with the company,” said Mirpuri.

Bowen praised HSBC’s internal structure and job mobility that allows their top talent to do greater things with other business units after spending time with PayMe. “While you could be working for PayMe today, there’s nothing stopping you from using the experience to work in another business stream or another HSBC office in another country.”

The company also offers great health insurance, learning and development programmes as well as generous well-being initiatives such as 30 days of paid leave and pension.

Despite all that is given, Bowen said that the best and biggest benefit is the culture at PayMe. While Bowen said that PayMe is no longer considered a start-up in the eyes of the public, they still remain to be nimble, which distinguishes them from a large bank. “Having a people-first culture means that the employees can create their own initiatives to enhance their learning, which would also integrate everyone in the culture as they would have the opportunity to work with one another and realise their own dreams.”

Bowen expressed gratitude to HSBC for taking a chance on him even though he does not have a college degree. When he first joined the organisation, he realised that with a keen learning attitude, he was presented with numerous new learning opportunities, so he stayed on for 21 years.

showcase talent growth and culture to attract right people
showcase talent growth and culture to attract right people

She also shared that even with COVID, face-to-face job interviews are still very valuable as the candidate and employer can both evaluate each other’s personality traits, management and working styles as well as attitude towards the work and the organisation.

Mipuri reiterated that the biggest barrier that candidates continue to face in their job search journey is not knowing what it's like to work at an organisation. This obstacle can be overcome during the in-person job interview process because they get to meet the people they will be working with in the environment in which they will be working.

Raza concluded the webinar by saying that he wished companies could make it easier for people to bring their whole selves to work. “People struggle to be authentic at the workplace and lines have been blurred with hybrid work. While updating your policies with theoretical frameworks is easy, letting people bring their whole selves to work is difficult.”

let randstad boost your ability to attract talent

At Randstad, we connect with industry experts like Raffat Raza from Manulife and Alex Bowen from HSBC PayMe to share new insights into the latest talent expectations and trends. We also conduct global and local surveys regularly to keep up with the changes in the talent landscape.

No matter how small or big your organisation is, Randstad is an additional resource and channel that your company can engage to reach a wider talent pool.

If you’re looking to grow your workforce or for a replacement headcount, please connect with our team of specialised recruiters. Let us help you find the right talent to drive your business performance and future development.

Check out our most recent banking jobs and apply for a job if you're hoping to advance your career in banking and fintech space. Our Career Advice Hub has more information on best practices, advice for job seekers, and resources to help you increase your competitive edge.

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