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Banks in Asia pulling out all the stops to hire Millennials

In this article, part one of three stemming from the eFinancialCareers bi-annual roundtable in Hong Kong for recruiters from leading international banks, we highlight some of the key hiring and retention trends emerging in Asia:

Recruiters at several global banks in Hong Kong say attracting and engaging the ‘Millennials’ generation has become a critical focus of their hiring and retention strategies, which have been forced to evolve dramatically in response to the dwindling appeal of financial services as a career, and the laissez-faire mindset of young graduates towards employment.

At eFinancialCareers roundtable in Hong Kong this week, recruiters were mostly aligned in their experiences with new graduates and bankers with only few years under their belts, saying that it had become increasingly challenging to attract and keep staff in this category in Asia.

Many said that the new generation coming through the ranks –   the so-called ‘Millennials’ (the next generation on from Gen Y) – were more demanding than previous generations about career progression, work/life balance and compensation.

They were also less concerned with hierarchies, and were very comfortable challenging line managers for promotions and raises.

Many said this rapidly evolving trend stemmed from interns and other young staff having more options today than their predecessors. Many in Asia did not have to work, thanks to family money, and were therefore less concerned about breaking their careers to take a year or two off.

These factors, combined with financial services being a less attractive career option than in the past and new, exciting employers that had emerged – Google was cited as one - made hiring and retention extremely challenging.

The banks said they were responding by making increasing use of social media in their hiring, and introducing policies to improve the work/life balance, particularly after the recent furore over interns being worked, literally, to death.

Goldman Sachs, for instance, has recently introduced its “9 to 9” rule, encouraging young bankers to leave the office no later than 9pm on a Friday, and to return no earlier than 9am on a Sunday.

The banks agreed that the value proposition for new and existing hires was no longer just about compensation, but had expanded considerably to encompass a more holistic approach, particularly when it came to women employees.

Diversity programmes were getting board-level buy-in, and now included not only ethnic and gender diversity, but also a focus on LGBT (lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals), people with disabilities, and veterans.

Interestingly, one bank with operations in Asia, the UK, and Australia, said when it came to gender diversity, Asia performed well, with over 50% of roles being held by women. This was in sharp contrast with the UK and Australia, where female representation fared less well. The bank’s representative said it was easier in Asia for women to work, thanks to the availability of cheap domestic labour to care for families.

Another bank said it had recently modified its internal mobility thresholds. Historically, this global bank had only allowed employees to apply for other roles within the organisation after two years tenure. This had been reduced significantly, and now the bank permitted staff to apply for other jobs after only 15 days in a role.

The bank representative said this decision was driven not only by employee engagement and retaining quality staff, but the importance of motivating line management to be better managers.

Even though diversity and retention programmes posed a steep cost for the banks, the recruiters said bank management understood that they were justified by the cost-benefit ratio, and the negative impact of losing staff, and having to recruit and retrain new hires.


AUTHORAmanda Vermeulen
  • No
    15 November 2013

    It's simple, the pay at entry level in most industries is not sufficient to attract, motivate and retain staff.

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