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Want to work crazy hours for new banks in Hong Kong? Look what's coming

If you’re looking for a technology job in Hong Kong, you’ll soon have more opportunities to work for units of some of China’s leading companies, which are opening up roles focused on emerging technologies. That’s because the Hong Kong Monetary Authority has just approved licences for four more virtual banks (taking the total to eight) – and this new batch is backed by the likes of Tencent and Alibaba.

One of the May licensees, Infinium, is a consortium that includes both ICBC (the world’s largest bank by assets) and Tencent (the world’s sixth largest internet company). Another one, Ant SME Services, is a unit of Ant Financial Services, which is owned by Alibaba. China’s largest insurer, Ping An, and electronic giant Xiaomi are (separately) backing the two other new virtual banks, alongside other partners. A Bank of China-led virtual bank gained approval earlier this year.

These Chinese-backed virtual banks in Hong Kong started hiring for technology, business strategy, product, and operations jobs even before they gained HKMA approval, says Danny Kwan, a managing consultant at tech search firm Pinpoint Asia in Hong Kong. They will recruit more technologists, in both China and Hong Kong, this year as they gear up to becoming operational within about nine months. “In Hong Kong, they’re also looking for IT security and risk skills, and HKMA experience,” says Tan.

As we've previously reported, virtual banking jobs in Hong Kong generally appeal to technologists because they offer the chance to build products from the ground up, unencumbered by legacy systems. Vacancies are typically focused on emerging technology in fields such as data analytics, cloud services, robo advisory, chatbots, and blockchain. “The jobs are giving people a chance to be pioneers,” Winnie Leung, an executive director at Pure Search in Hong Kong, told us earlier this month.

But the new crop of Chinese-led Hong Kong virtual banks won’t have it all their own way when it comes to attracting technology talent. Standard Chartered, which received its licence back in March and is the only global bank involved in the sector, is dominating virtual banking hiring in Hong Kong and is generally more attractive to candidates than Chinese firms are, says a Hong Kong-based recruiter who asked not to be named.

Although Infinium is backed by Tencent, the Chinese tech company employers a relatively small number of technologists in Hong Kong – the majority are located in its Shenzhen headquarters. “Infinium needs to build a reputation here to attract the best people,” says Kwan from Pinpoint Asia.

Meanwhile, technologists who get job offers from Alibaba’s virtual bank may want to ask about their working hours before they accept. Jack Ma, Alibaba’s founder, continues to support the so-called ‘996 system’ whereby employees work from 9am to 9pm six days a week.

But if you’re moving from a Western bank to any Chinese-backed virtual bank in Hong Kong, Kwan says the “working culture and leadership style” – not the hours – are what you should be most concerned about. “They are very different at a Chinese firm. They’re the key turn-off factors for candidates,” he adds.

Image credit: shansekala, Getty

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AUTHORSimon Mortlock Content Manager

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