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How to get a banking job at one of Hong Kong’s “big five” firms

Posted on April 13, 2015
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If you’re looking for a banking job in Hong Kong, chances are that Bank of China, Bank of East Asia, Heng Seng Bank, HSBC and Standard Chartered will be on your radar. These five firms have been deemed so systemically important to the territory’s financial system that the Hong Kong Monetary Authority last month required them to hold extra capital in reserve.

Hong Kong’s de facto “big five” are also among the top recruiters of financial talent and are collectively advertising some 960 jobs in the city. To kick start your job search, we’ve scoured the banks’ careers websites to identify some of the departments they’re hiring in (and some you may wish to avoid applying to right now).

Bank of China

Where it’s hot: Most of BOC’s financial-technology recruitment may be mainland-based, but the bank still has 19 Hong Kong IT jobs available (about 11% of its 182 vacancy total). Many of these are more senior roles – analysts and project managers abound – rather than junior programming positions. BOC’s retail banking business in Hong Kong is even larger, with 54 roles to choose from.

Where it’s not: BOC’s global markets and investment banking business only has nine vacancies right now and most of them are product-developed focused. If you want a client-facing role in the division, you’ll have to specialise in selling treasury products. Surprisingly, BOC only has five openings in the hot sector of transaction banking.

Hot job: Senior strategic planner. You’ll be tasked with assisting management to “formulate the group’s corporate strategies” and liaising with other units to implement “strategic projects, such as RMB business and M&A”. A good role if you want to escape your current niche to get a handle on, basically, everything in the bank.

Bank of East Asia

Where it’s hot: If you want an IT contract job in Hong Kong, try applying to BEA. Its technology unit has 31 open positions – making up 18% of a firm-wide vacancy tally of 171 – of which 22 are contract assignments. While many of these roles involve routine systems development and maintenance, the contracting market is expanding in Hong Kong and can be a useful route into a more senior permanent position. BEA is also recruiting 16 more staff in corporate banking, including 10 relationship managers.

Where it’s not: Although internal audit is one of the most talent short functions in Asian banking, BEA’s unit appears to be already staffed up and has a mere two vacancies. That’s still two more than its legal, secretarial and tax division, however.

Hot job: Business manager, China division. Hong Kong-based China-focused roles are hot right nowas banks compete for Chinese clients. In this daunting-sounding job you’ll get to oversee the performance of BEA’s businesses on the mainland.

Heng Seng Bank

Where it’s hiring: It’s no secret that most banks in Asia are still beefing up their risk and compliance teams, but the scale of Heng Seng’s current hiring is still impressive – the firm has 37 vacancies in the sector (20% of its 186 advertised jobs). Accountants may also like to send their CVs to Heng Seng as its financial control unit is seeking 17 new staff.

Where it’s not: Thought private banking was a hot sector in Asia? Not at Heng Seng. The firm has just two openings in this area and they’re both support and control roles – so you won’t even be wining and dining Chinese millionaires.

Hot job: Captain. As exciting as this sound, you will mainly be providing “banqueting services to the penthouse of the bank”. You will need a Wine and Spirit Education Trust Level II qualification.


Where it’s hot: HSBC has a lot more (334) jobs online than any of its four rivals, but these roles are spread fairly thinly across multiple departments. Commercial banking has 29 vacancies (9% of the total), including a number of senior relationship manager positions dealing with corporate clients. And despite the recent trend to offshore back-office jobs away from high-cost Hong Kong, HSBC is still offering 25 operations jobs in the city.

Where it’s not: Like most other large Western banks in Hong Kong this year, HSBC isn’t hiring heavily in the front office. The no-vacancies sign is up across capital markets, equities, fixed income and derivatives, while FX, broking and investment banking have one, two and three openings respectively. Wealth management fares little better with four.

Hot job: Head of financial reporting, Asia Pacific. Banks in Asia are expanding in financial and regulatory reporting – this could be your chance to recruit your own team across the region.

Standard Chartered

Where it’s hiring: Last year Standard Chartered was increasing its compliance headcount in Asia and globally – its recruitment priorities haven’t changed much since then. It has 10 compliance and 10 risk vacancies in Hong Kong – mainly managerial ones – which combined account for 23% of its 87 listed jobs in the city. Stan Chart also wants to hire seven people into its private banking team.

Where it’s not: Standard Chartered may have appointed a new chief executive to turn around its troubled business, but it doesn’t have any strategy or corporate-development roles on offer in Hong Kong right now.

Our job pick: Manager, sustainability and corporate engagement. A rare chance to snare an ethical (and fairly senior) banking job. You’ll need to enjoy working with the government, NGOs and community leaders.

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