Banking generally remained a challenging sector in 2017. While digital continues to be the top priority for most banks to drive growth and boost earning in a cost-effective manner, many banks also focused on restructuring and streamlining processes in other areas to reduce cost, leading to cautious hiring plans.
Similarly, hiring was also conservative amongst the insurance industry as most companies chose to prioritise meeting the growing regulatory requirements over driving growth for the first half of 2017. Nonetheless, Hong Kong continued to enjoy the benefits of being a major financial hub in Asia as investments continued to pour in from mainland Chinese firms.
The need to meet new regulations saw an increased demand in Corporate Governance roles, particularly within the compliance function with financial crime compliance being an especially active area. In addition, positions such as change management and project management were in high demand as companies relied on these candidates to support and implement a smooth restructuring process and change management regime.
On the finance side, tightening regulations announced by local regulators has meant that candidates with experience in regulatory reporting and exposure to accounting policy standards were highly sought after.
Despite the market sentiment for Insurance being soft overall, actuarial candidates were sought after by most insurers especially on the life insurance side.
IFRS has continued to be a hot topic across the sector and candidates with relevant experience were highly sought after by insurers, banks, regulators and advisory firms in preparation for next year.
Overall, the sector trend has seen most businesses focus on consolidation and reducing headcount. This has meant that more routine and operational functions such as finance controllership and finance operations have seen a decrease in demand as companies seek to improve efficiency and reduce cost.
Talent shortages saw a shift in companies focus on providing additional training to their current employees in order to redeploy them to other areas of business. Companies continued to off shore and establish shared services centres to improve overall efficiencies and reduce cost.
While hiring was off to a slow start within the financial services sector this year, we expect activities to gradually increase in the second half of the year as companies look to resume their hiring plans after a period of budgetary and headcount consolidation in H1 2017.
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