Guest Comment: recruitment revival in China's banking sector

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Over the past few months China's banking sector has experienced something of a revival, predominantly as a result of the actions taken by the Chinese Government to assist in its recovery.

A loosening of credit approval requirements early this year was followed by a comparatively flexible monetary policy. This encouraged banks to loan more money to small to medium-size enterprises in particular.

Consequently, there has been a steady growth in the number of bank loans, spurring demand for credit assessment candidates over the past six months.

Continued growth in second and third-tier cities

The Government has also implemented various incentives designed to encourage banks to expand their coverage in second and third tier cities. Banks that have chosen to move into these cities have enjoyed quicker approval services from the China Banking Regulatory Commission.

Local governments at both the city and provincial level have provided a great deal of support. Banks are also enjoying benefits such as better business locations and improved tax policies.

Leading commercial banks, such as HSBC and Standard Chartered, have been quick to take advantage of this opportunity. Aggressive expansion strategies have seen them open more branches and sub-branches.

This expansion is creating demand for candidates with four to eight years' relationship management experience within the commercial banking sector. Candidates will also need state-owned enterprises (SOE) and multinational experience.

Those with PRC experience and English language skills are also sought after in response to attempts by foreign banks to enter the market.

Retail banking, however, continues to be the main focus of vacancy activity. There has been increasing demand for branch managers with extensive experience in driving retail banking sales and the ability to manage local relationships. VIP customer service representatives and premier banking relationship managers are also in huge demand.

Recovery in Shanghai and Beijing

The recruitment market in both Shanghai and Beijing is now improving. We've noticed many candidates switching jobs because they are less concerned about future career stability. This positive outlook has helped to improve job flow.

Compliance and risk management people are in high demand in these major cities. There is also availability for finance professionals with local regulatory reporting experience and a good understanding of tax laws.

Niche markets: commodities and fixed-income

The shortage of candidates with a solid track record in commodities and fixed-income continues. Banks want candidates with strong product knowledge, a thorough understanding of client needs and experience in business relationship development and maintenance.

Executive opportunities

Over the past 12 months there has been a growing trend across all industries towards mergers and acquisitions as many companies strive for stronger market positions. This is the case within the banking sector and as a result there is a need for senior finance candidates with an accounting qualification. Experience setting up and implementing such strategies is an obvious advantage.

There are also opportunities for corporate bankers at the director level as banks attempt to strengthen their presence in China.

Advice to candidates

While the market is starting to bounce back from the roller coaster ride of the last year, it still has battles to face. It will take time for improved sentiment to translate into improved vacancy activity.

The good news is employers are beginning to look more positively towards recruitment activity.

Emma Charnock is the regional director of recruitment firm Hays in China and Hong Kong.