Talent demand changes reflect governance challenges

Hong Kong Shift

Hays have reported on the changes in governance within Hong Kong’s accountancy and finance sectors over the past year, leading to companies increasing awareness in corporate compliance. The changes, they say, have resulted in rising recruitment demands in a number of areas, with a particular focus on risk management.

Demand for candidates is highest in the following areas:
• Financial regulatory reporting professionals
• Project management
• Chief Financial Officers
• Senior Financial Planning and Analysis Professionals

Whereas 2016 and 2017 were predominantly typified by recruitment in the junior to mid-level areas of the industry, this year has bucked the trend. “Usually we see movement in the assistant manager and manager positions, where turnover is generally higher, but in recent months we have been approached by companies requiring VP, CFO and head of finance positions,” says Dean Stallard, managing director of Hays Greater Bay Area.

According to Dean, one of the main reasons for this is the developing regulations imposed by the HKMA in the banking sector, the creation of the Insurance Authority, and the upcoming implementation of the global IFRS 17 standard, all of which require companies to install project managers to lead the necessary systems changes.

“In the insurance industry, due to the requirement for having IFRS 17 systems up and running by 2021, there is a need for systems project people to implement them, but these individuals are few and far between, particularly inhouse. This means that firms are looking to recruit individuals from the Big Four companies where preparations are already well underway,” Dean explains. “There continues to be openings for financial reporting roles in the banking sector, but just as in insurance there is also a profound interest in finance project managers. What is most interesting about these positions is in the way that the new technologies required to implement them means that candidates who not only have an IT background but also an in-depth knowledge of the regulatory reforms are top of companies’ wish lists.”

The rise of these technological advances is changing the way accounting systems are executed. Fintech is leading the way forward and companies, particularly in banking, are looking to take advantage of it to streamline processes, putting a great emphasis on projects related to transformation, systems change and automaton.

“With the realisation of virtual banks we are seeing financial institutions collaborate with a great number of startups and major telecommunications organisations, creating an immediate demand in the fintech sphere. However, as projects grow we are also likely to see virtual banks require CFOs or finance controllers to nurture and augment these are-as.”

As candidates with knowledge in new regulations, technologies or – the optimum – both, are limited, companies are extremely competitive in accruing this talent, often offering 25 to 28 per cent salary increases to new candidates or as retention packages to existing employees. Yet, while a monetary incentive is high on the list for many candidates, it is by no means the top priority.

“Financial services employees work long hours, so more and more companies are pro-moting an improved work/life balance as a way of onboarding talent, something that we are finding many jobseekers are open to,” Dean says.

“But the number one requirement for candidates is career progression, something that companies are reacting to with positivity. The last 12 months has seen an increase in companies being explicit in where certain positions can lead to in the future, where the next step will be, something that is proving a useful tool in enticing candidates.”

Historically, the months approaching the year’s final quarter tend to be quieter on the recruitment front in Hong Kong’s accountancy and finance sector following the annual rush of the post-bonus pay out, but 2018 is proving to be an exception with the market still active, giving candidates an opportunity to reappraise their positions.

“If you have the opportunity to increase your salary, go to a better platform or improve your work life balance, then that is always something that you should explore,” Dean enthuses. “And now is as good a time as any.”

An overview of what other trends have been observed in Hong Kong’s Accountancy & Finance sector can be viewed below.
• Networking conferences are on the increase in 2018, with Hays’ own CFO level networking events particularly well attended, highlighting the interest of higher-level finance individuals in learning more about the market.
• Hong Kong’s ACCA has reported to Hays that they have also seen high turnouts at their events for lower level candidates.
• Individuals looking to improve through upskilling are finding most success in large MNCs, which have educational or qualification allowances.
• Outside of financial services industries, Hays recommends accountancy and finance candidates look to move into the medical devices sector, which has seen meteoric growth in the past 24 months, something likely to continue in the coming years.

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