Discover your dream Career
For Recruiters

The six worst mid-career fears of Hong Kong bankers

Vice presidents at investment banks in Hong Kong are, in theory, well placed in the current job market. Banks continue to hand them extra work as they trim more senior jobs. And because graduate hiring in Hong Kong was cut during the downturn in 2010, VPs are now comparatively hard to find.

However, headhunters say the VP candidates they are talking to this year are increasingly worried about their long-term future in the banking sector as more of their colleagues quit for fintech or corporate development roles.

Here’s what VPs in Hong Kong are asking recruiters, and here’s what recruiters are advising them.

Should I quit investment banking for the corporate sector?

Expansionist Chinese companies are on the hunt for bankers to guide them through mergers and IPOs. VP bankers are now being proactive and asking recruiters about these jobs in increasing numbers, says Eunice Ng, director of search firm Avanza Consulting in Hong Kong. Interest in the corporate sector is now roughly equivalent to the traditional mid-career longing for the buy-side. But although these bankers want to share in the success of Chinese corporate expansion, Ng says improving their work-life balance is their main motivation for moving.

But do I have a sufficient safety net?

When weighing up whether to leave the finance sector, Hong Kong bankers tend to be highly risk adverse. A big concern is often whether their savings are large enough to justify removing the iron rice bowl of a VP job. “If candidates have the personal means to allow them to pursue their passions outside of banking, I strongly endorse this choice,” says Amanda Lote, MD of headhunters Lote & Partners in Hong Kong. “I saw an IB candidate who halved his pay to join an e-commerce firm, but he was independently wealthy and said money was unimportant – he was attracted to the scalability of the business plan.”

Which of my key skills are becoming obsolete?

Recruiters view a lot of job descriptions so they are often quizzed by VPs about which skills are becoming popular and which are falling out of favour in their field. “The financial landscape is changing – some roles are being outsourced and are never coming back,” says Adrian Choo, CEO of Career Agility. “In five years’ time, even some risk management functions might be replaced by business analytics or artificial intelligence software. VPs need to constantly monitor the market to see if their skills are sustainable in the long run. You don’t want to be obsolete by your 40s.”

Can I transfer out of the back-office?

Back-office professionals who’ve reached VP level increasingly face an uncertain future as banks continue to offshore operations jobs away from Hong Kong. “But people in product control, trade support and price verification often make excellent internal transferees into the governance world – in particular operational risk, where technical product knowledge and an understanding of internal procedures give these controllers an edge,” says a Hong Kong-based headhunter.

Does my loyalty make me a salary loser?

“The market in Asia still promotes job hopping by offering fairly large salary increments every time someone moves,” says the Hong Kong recruiter. “Those who remain loyal often get left behind on pay and by the time they reach VP they can end up with below-market salaries. This eventually causes frustration and they want to move themselves, but I’d advise them to have an open conversation with their boss prior to any job search.”

My sponsor quit – so what now?

“I meet a lot of excellent candidates who’ve been fast tracked and sponsored early on in their career but have now hit a glass ceiling as they’ve got older and become a VP,” says the recruiter. “Often this promotion process goes wrong if their main sponsor leaves the bank. I always advise them to realistically compare possibilities for internal career progression with any external roles available on the market.”

Image credit: baona, Getty

AUTHORSimon Mortlock Content Manager

Sign up to Morning Coffee!

Coffee mug

The essential daily roundup of news and analysis read by everyone from senior bankers and traders to new recruits.

Boost your career

Find thousands of job opportunities by signing up to eFinancialCareers today.
Latest Jobs

Sign up to Morning Coffee!

Coffee mug

The essential daily roundup of news and analysis read by everyone from senior bankers and traders to new recruits.