Mr. Shangkong

Asian trio the new hunting ground for job opportunities

More and more financial professionals look to Shanghai, Hong Kong and Singapore as region is expected to take the lead in employment

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 26 November, 2012, 3:09pm


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"Dubai, Mumbai, Shanghai or Bye-bye!" Remember that popular joke Western bankers passed around during the 2008 global financial crisis?

Fast forward four years. Now, Shanghai looks even brighter as far as financial industry jobs go, while Dubai and Mumbai are grappling with their individual economic woes.

According to a recent survey by Astbury Marsden, a British headhunting firm, more and more London-based financial professionals are willing to move to Asian cities, including Shanghai, Hong Kong and Singapore, for new job opportunities.

In fact, 26 per cent of the survey's participants expect Shanghai to provide more financial jobs than Hong Kong next year, while 14 per cent believe Hong Kong will outpace Shanghai in 2013.

All told, 73 per cent think Hong Kong, Shanghai and Singapore will create the most new banking jobs over the next year. Only 12 per cent believe London, the world's biggest financial centre in terms of trading foreign exchange and interest-rate derivatives as well as cross-border bank lending, will create the most new jobs in the sector.

Mark Cameron, chief operating officer at Astbury Marsden, says "much of that shift is inevitable" on the jobs front as China's economy powers ahead and its financial sector opens further. Meantime, he notes that Britain has only now emerged from a double-dip recession, while China is "expected to continue to grow at 8 per cent".

To be honest, it's been no secret that an increasing number of Western financial professionals from London, New York or Frankfurt are considering abandoning their home markets if they can land a job offer in an Asian city such as Shanghai or Hong Kong.

And speaking of Hong Kong, the former British colony has long attracted foreign professional workers. But fast-rising rents have forced many expatriates to think twice about relocating to the city, with Singapore looking a good alternative.

Following the 2008 global financial crisis, the Hong Kong offices of global banks, which often also serve as Asia-Pacific regional offices, have cut housing allowances and other benefits for their expat staff, making Hong Kong an expensive proposition, especially if parents face international school fees for children.

Meanwhile, Beijing has pledged to build Shanghai into a truly global financial centre by 2020 and the local government is trying to lure global financial talent with income tax rebates for senior positions.

In the good old days, well, about six years ago, at the Shanghai office of a British news agency I worked for, some of the senior staff got a "hardship allowance" on top of their salaries because China was considered a third-world posting.

These days, though, forget those kinds of perks. While the job outlook may be bright in Shanghai, it's a buyer's market with talent knocking on the door from London and New York, and more Chinese "returnees" coming home from their studies abroad looking for work.


George Chen is the Post's financial services editor. Mr. Shangkong appears every Monday in the print version of the SCMP. Like it? Visit