Putonghua rises in jobs importance

PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 29 October, 2012, 9:57pm

Wanted: job candidates who speak Putonghua.

In Hong Kong these days, more and more bankers need to be able to speak the language, given the increasing amount of business related to mergers and acquisitions, wealth management, corporate finance, new stock market listings and credit risk that involves mainland clients.

Mark O'Reilly, the managing director of recruitment firm Astbury Marsden Asia Pacific, said about 40 per cent of jobs in the finance industry required Putonghua skills, and that percentage was set to increase.

It is a trend that other headhunters are spotting.

"Investment banks didn't place so much emphasis on Putonghua in the past, now it's become extremely important," said Jerry Chang, a director of recruitment firm Barons & Company.

Private banks are courting high-net-worth individual clients from the mainland, where the number of millionaires has ballooned.

The demand for Putonghua speakers was "particularly acute" in wealth management, Astbury Marsden said.

"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," O'Reilly said.

Simon Ng, the managing director of Royal Bank of Canada Trust (Asia) and RBC Investment Management, recently said Putonghua was almost a must for supporting functions in Hong Kong such as assisting clients to place orders and do trades.

Demand for Putonghua speakers in management consultancy, and client-facing roles in the IT sector also has grown with more business being done on the mainland, recruiters say.

"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 corporates those jobs are a shrinking portion of the pie," O'Reilly said.

Areas in the finance industry where Putonghua is less essential include compliance, trading, sales dealing with Western institutions and product control.

In general, senior-level appointees were not yet expected to speak Putonghua, as candidates at vice-president and director levels were seen as adding value through other skills and experience, Astbury Marsden said.