Morning Coffee: Graduates to blame as Hong Kong financial services faces big talent shortages

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Redundancies at banks in Hong Kong may have grabbed recent headlines, but overall the city’s financial-services sector is suffering from deep-set skill shortages, according to a new government report.

The report from the Financial Services Development Council (FSDC) says employers are struggling to find talent in: asset management, wealth management, private banking, retail banking, corporate banking, investment banking, financial consultancy, securities and insurance. In other words, pretty much everywhere. “Given the tight employment market in Hong Kong and the robust growth of the financial services industry, nearly all surveyed companies indicated that they had difficulty finding and keeping seasoned employees,” the FSDC says in a press release.

The report places much of the blame for this on Hong Kong’s recent crop of graduates who, it says, are unwilling to take jobs in fast-growing middle-office sectors like compliance. [efc_twitter text="Front-office investment banking remains too alluring for Hong Kong grads even in the wake of the financial crisis"]. This reflects what recruiters have been telling us for the last 12 months – salaries in compliance are rising and people are shifting into the sector from other functions partly because the junior talent pool isn't growing quickly enough.

There’s a more widespread problem stopping local graduates getting jobs and rising up the ranks in financial services – their poor language skills in Mandarin and English compared with their mainland and Western counterparts respectively. “Many local graduates have found themselves facing formidable challenge from mainland graduates and international professionals who are better equipped with the necessary skills required by financial firms. Local graduates need to improve their language skills and knowledge to compete or they risk losing top jobs to mainland and expatriate professionals,” said Joe Ngai, member and convenor of the human capital committee of the FSDC (reported in the South China Morning Post).

If you’re a university student in Hong Kong right now, it may be time to improve your language skills and consider a career in compliance. Click here for our guide to graduate compliance careers in Asia.


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