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English no longer enough for growing set of banking jobs in Hong Kong and Singapore

English no longer enough for growing set of banking jobs in Hong Kong and Singapore

Chinese IPOs driving need for Mandarin speakers in corporate finance

& lsquo;Little prospect’ for employment in some roles for British expats in Hong Kong without Mandarin skills

British bankers without Mandarin language skills are now finding it increasingly hard to get on shortlists for jobs in both Hong Kong and Singapore says Astbury Marsden, a leading financial services recruitment firm.

Astbury Marsden says that the demand for bankers who speak Mandarin has risen sharply as the overall pool of new jobs has shrunk. Demand has been driven by the growing importance of mainland Chinese corporate and high net worth private clients.

Astbury Marsden says that in some areas, competition for positions is currently so intense that non-Mandarin speakers have very little prospect of securing employment in Hong Kong.

Mark O’Reilly, Managing Director of Astbury Marsden Asia Pacific, says: “For British expat bankers, having the technical skills and experience is no longer enough. If your role in a bank or fund manager is to deal with a mainland Chinese client, you are now expected to be fluent in Mandarin.”

“There are still plenty of jobs in Hong Kong where you just deal with other English speakers but with the growth of Chinese banks, insurers and other corporate those jobs are a shrinking proportion of the pie.”

Mark O’Reilly says that 40% of the roles Astbury Marsden has been instructed on in Hong Kong in the last quarter have required Mandarin skills, and that percentage is increasing all the time.

Astbury Marsden says that almost all new corporate finance roles in Hong Kong and Singapore require Mandarin speakers, with Chinese IPOs propping up the depressed global IPO market in 2012. Chinese companies made up half of the global total of money raised in IPOs in the first quarter of the year.

Comments Mark O’Reilly: “Many of the biggest IPOs in recent years have been Chinese companies and banks are competing aggressively to get a slice of that market. We’re going to see another demonstration of this soon, with Chinese insurance giant PICC aiming to raise $3 billion through a listing in Hong Kong.”

“Of course, to play any role in the Chinese IPO market, the ability of your team to communicate in Mandarin is essential.”

Private banking boom

Astbury Marsden says that there is also a particularly acute demand for Mandarin speakers in the private banking industry, with Chinese US dollar millionaires now numbering more than 1.4 million.

Explains Mark O’Reilly: “With the incredible growth of wealth in China over the last few years, most Western private banks and fund managers are keen to access this new group of Chinese millionaires.”

“Several large Western private banks are known to be recruiting heavily in Hong Kong, with an eye to expanding their ability to serve mainland Chinese clients.”

Astbury Marsden says that there has also been an increase in demand for Mandarin speakers in management consultancy, and client-facing roles within the IT sector.

Comments Mark O’Reilly: “Both the management consultancy and technology sectors have found that an increasing share of their work is being executed on the mainland. Firms are much more likely to develop long-term business relationships when they can communicate effectively in their client’s language.”

Astbury Marsden says that there are still sectors of the Hong Kong market where Mandarin fluency is not yet a required skill.

Says Mark O’Reilly: “In general, more senior-level appointees are not yet expected to speak Mandarin, as candidates at VP and Director level are seen as adding value through other skills and experience. Unfortunately for more junior banking staff, the linguistic demands are becoming more acute.”

“Demand for Mandarin speakers is also not as high in areas such as trading and compliance. Traders and compliance teams are spending their time dealing with other Western bankers and traders. They are in one of the few areas where there is not more pressure to improve Mandarin skills.”


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