Foreign banks in China to tame pay and slow hiring: Robert Walters

Expect hiring to become more selective as global economic uncertainty continues: Robert Walters

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 February, 2013, 6:07am

Foreign banks on the mainland will limit wage growth in the world's second-largest banking market this year by being selective in creating new positions, recruitment agency Robert Walters said.

Hiring in Beijing will remain low as global economic uncertainty continues and employers strive to control costs, according to the agency's annual survey published yesterday, which did not forecast specific hiring levels.

Some experienced bankers might get pay increases of 20 to 30 per cent when changing jobs, similar to 2012, the report said.

Financial firms worldwide have announced more than 300,000 job cuts since the start of 2011 as a trading slump prompts cost cuts and regulators demand more capital. Foreign banks on the mainland planned to expand headcount by 56 per cent in 2012-15 as revenue grew 20 per cent a year, a PricewaterhouseCoopers survey found last year.

"If you look at the past few years, there's been quite rapid wage inflation in China, and employees are changing jobs for significant incremental gains in their salaries," said Mark Ellwood, Singapore-based managing director of Robert Walters Asia. "There's going to be more stabilisation in 2013."

In Beijing, where the local offices of lenders such as JPMorgan Chase are based, foreign banks are offering mainly front-office, corporate banking jobs that focus on generating revenue, according to the survey.

Air pollution might discourage executives from taking up positions in the capital, said Hays, which has advised clients including Barclays. The concentration of PM2.5 particulate matter exceeded the World Health Organisation's "healthy" limit every day in January, based on daily peak readings from the US Embassy.

In Shanghai, the mainland hub for foreign commercial banks such as HSBC and Standard Chartered, executives with overseas experience and expertise in areas such as risk, compliance and preventing money laundering were in strong demand due to new regulations, Robert Walters said.

Banks began to focus on those jobs last year as they sought to beef up controls after scandals overseas, the recruiter said.

A Shanghai-based head of compliance might receive base pay of 1.1 million yuan (HK$1.23 million) to 2.3 million yuan this year, compared with 1 million to 2.2 million yuan in 2012, the survey found. The maximum figure for a chief financial officer inched up to 2.6 million yuan from 2.5 million yuan.

Wage inflation began to "calm down" last year, Ellwood said. "It's going to be a flat year by and large in terms of salary movement in Hong Kong, Singapore and even in China," he added.