Tthe financial crisis may have detrimentally affected Hong Kong's telecommunications industry as a whole, but talent is still in demand in information security and information technology (IT) services. The sector's job market has become tighter but top players are finding a silver lining in a cloudy economy. Florence Cheung, vice-president for human resources at Wharf T&T (WTT), said some telecoms companies were enacting major layoffs, pay cuts and tightening their belts with remaining staff. 'This often results in organisational retrenching, reduced staffing levels, increased workloads and constrained compensation budgets,' Ms Cheung said. 'It makes employee engagement more difficult to achieve, and affects business results and talent retention.' However the strength of telecoms and information and communications technology (ICT) is that, whatever the economy, it is essential across the board. The impact of the financial crisis has not been as severe in this sector as it has been on others. Significant opportunities exist for companies which can adapt to change. Innovative customer solutions were what customers hungered for in a downturn, Ms Cheung said. Despite the financial tsunami, WTT is advancing its business transformation, gaining ground in the telecoms and IT sectors. Ms Cheung said this could be attributed to a recovery in the voice business and the robust performance of the data business. 'The present economic environment provides a great opportunity for progressive employers that are open to change and want to cultivate important relationships during times of crisis when competitors are looking elsewhere,' she said. This necessitates excellent communication between managers and employers. The ability to rapidly address challenges is also essential. WTT offers one-stop information and communication technology solutions, including information security management. Other strategies include investing more than HK$5 billion in Hong Kong's telecoms network infrastructure. WTT, having integrated leading IT services player COL, offers customers of all tiers and industries comprehensive IT and robust networking capabilities. COL is one of the few companies in Asia to have been awarded dual ISO/IEC 20000 and 27001 certification simultaneously to recognise its international standards in IT service management and security. Gold partner accreditation from Cisco, strong customer relationships with more than 120 corporate clients and a uniquely high staff retention record are other pluses. WTT's market position has also been boosted by its long-term relationship with clients. 'We work closely with our clients and we understand their needs,' Ms Cheung said. One perk of doing business with WTT is its business continuity service, first offered in Hong Kong by COL. 'We have over 85 per cent market share in treasury business and clients include most of the major banks in Hong Kong,' Ms Cheung said. 'Our strong industry know-how allows us to provide the most suitable solutions for them.' Information security management is becoming a major issue for the finance and insurance industries. The growing popularity of online transactions and e-commerce means financial firms cannot gamble with their information security. 'Security for data and end-points will continue to thrive because this is essential technology to help companies save money and reduce expenses,' Ms Cheung said. E-business was also driving significant activity on the security front in government, retail, health and other sectors, she said. A competitive edge in a shaky economic environment also comes from having well-qualified and engaged teams. WTT runs an employee satisfaction survey to assess and review employee engagement. Target bonuses were paid even in tough times, and outstanding performers received substantial pay rises and attractive bonuses, Ms Cheung said. WTT has also chosen not to trim the training budget. Training allows staff to sharpen skills and is integral to the organisation's talent management strategy. 'Every position has an individual development plan, which is linked to the performance development system,' Ms Cheung said. In addition to structured qualification sponsorship and training programmes, staff also work in teams on different business projects. Emphasis is placed on innovation and change in a volatile business environment. Initiatives leverage on individuals' learning in order to unleash their potential. Although overall market demand is down for IT professionals, WTT is seeing steady growth in its staff numbers. Openings exist for programmers, system analysts, network engineers, application developers, data centre operators and consultants, and technical support specialists.