THE DEMAND FOR office space in Hong Kong has shot back to the pre-1997 level of its economic heyday. Financiers and banks are cashing in on the mainland's booming economy and insurers and personal bankers are arriving in Hong Kong in droves. This is good news for developers such as Swire Properties and Sun Hung Kai Properties. It also means 'great opportunities' for careers in office leasing and management, according to Doris Chu, head of HR and administration at Swire Properties, one of Hong Kong's most prominent office landlords. 'The market is clearly enjoying a strong period of growth in take-up. It has been helped by economic growth in China, capital raising for mainland companies and the increase in private banking,' Ms Chu said. Swire Properties has already seen the financial sector swamp demand for its latest development at Pacific Place. Hi-tech Three Pacific Place is virtually at 100 per cent occupancy, most notably as a result of expansion by European financial services group Societe Generale and The Bank of New York, as well as the arrival of Macquarie Goodman Asia. With the financial sector accounting for about two-thirds of all offices at Three Pacific Place, Swire Properties director and general manager Jolyon Culbertson described it as a 'grade-A finance and banking hub'. 'The supply of grade-A office space in prime areas continues to be limited,' Mr Culbertson said. 'Three Pacific Place has served to meet the demand of multinational companies that are experiencing solid business growth and expansion plans in the region.' Swire Properties is now banking on its next big development, One Island East, which it hopes will be a sought-after refuge as the financial services sector 'continues to expand and push demand' in its traditional nerve centre of Central. Scheduled for a single-phase completion in 2008 and featuring superlative harbour views, the 70-storey, grade-A office building will add a further 1.5million sqft to Swire's thriving new business community in Island East - extending from Taikoo Place to Cityplaza. Island East is home to more than 300 corporations, and the recent arrival of DBS Bank and expanded offices for American International Assurance indicate the financial sector already views it as an attractive option to crowded Central. Swire Properties director and general manager Stephan Spurr said: 'Occupancy in Island East is up to 97 per cent and our vacancy factor is back to pre-1997 levels.' In such an active office market, job opportunities are across the board. Swire has openings ranging from assistant building manager, tenant liaison officer, building surveyor and business executive to computer, marketing, administration and customer services staff. Ms Chu said: 'There are great career opportunities in the property management and leasing fields.' Besides regular recruitment, the property arm of Swire Group also offers opportunities through a three-year management trainee programme for 'high-calibre graduates with a versatile mindset, who are flexible and capable of coping effectively with the changing environment'. Graduates from all disciplines are welcome, with recruitment now under way. 'Trainees with outstanding performance will be offered a promising career to develop with the company,' Ms Chu said. Sun Hung Kai Properties, another huge property developer and landlord with a workforce of 23,000, is similarly encountering spectacular demand for offices. The firm's portfolio, which includes Central Plaza and Two IFC, Hong Kong's tallest building, continues to expand. The International Commerce Centre is set to become Hong Kong's next tallest skyscraper and the third-tallest in the world when it opens at the end of this year. The firm's real estate agency executive director, Victor Lui, said the 490-metre, 118-floor landmark in West Kowloon 'will take on global importance and reinforce Hong Kong's status as an international financial centre'. Its 5.5million sqft of grade-A offices will be the most spacious in Hong Kong. Despite being across the harbour, it is just a few minutes by train from Central and meets 'surging demand for quality offices with the increasing presence of mainland and foreign firms in Hong Kong', Mr Lui said. 'A number of multinationals and major local companies are also looking for more office space for expansion amid a steadily improving local economy.' Deputy general manager for office leasing Lo King-wai believed 'strong leasing activity will continue to bode well for the office market'. Reflecting this, Sun Hung Kai has just embarked on its biggest office upgrade programme in 10 years. Being modernised to the tune of HK$600million are Millennium City 2, Sun Hung Kai Centre, Harbour Centre, Central Plaza, World Trade Centre, Metroplaza, New Town Tower in Sha Tin, Sheung Shui Plaza and Grand City Plaza in Tsuen Wan. Expansion in Hong Kong, together with major projects in the mainland, including Shanghai IFC, means the company is 'always recruiting', with vacancies including posts for leasing managers, officers and executives.