Hong Kong’s most in-demand financial services positions

Robert Half research has found Hong Kong companies are willing to pay competitive salaries in order to secure top financial services talent.

Employers willing to raise initially-planned starting salaries by an average of 8%

The 2018 Robert Half Salary Guide reveals the latest hiring trends and in-depth salary data for Hong Kong’s financial services sector

  • The top three most in-demand financial services roles are: Finance Manager, Compliance Manager, and Trade Support Manager.
  • 97% of Hong Kong CFOs in financial services are willing to raise the initially-planned starting salary by an average of 8% to secure top financial services talent.
  • 100% plan to award an average of 13% of their financial services staff with a pay rise in 2018, with the average salary increase expected to be 7.5%. 

The Hong Kong employment market is experiencing an ongoing skills shortage, particularly within the financial services sector. As a result, according to new independent research commissioned by specialised recruiter Robert Half, companies are willing to pay competitive salaries in order to secure top talent. According to the research, 97% of CFOs within financial services are willing to raise the initially-planned starting salaries by an average of 8% to secure top financial services talent. 

Adam Johnston, Managing Director of Robert Half Hong Kong said: “Salary remains a determining factor in the Hong Kong employment market. While there are many other elements that make up an attractive remuneration package, many professionals working in the competitive financial services industry accept job offers based on financial incentives.”

“Candidates within the sector know they are firmly in the driver’s seat when it comes to salary negotiations – so companies need to be thoughtful and creative when determining compensation, thinking about individual motivators to secure their preferred candidate, or else risk losing them to the competition.”

In a candidate-short market, the newly-released 2018 Robert Half Salary Guide has identified the most in-demand financial services professionals and those who will be able to command higher starting salaries when interviewing for a new job [1]: 

1.    Finance Manager 

  Salary Range      
Percentiles 25th   50th 75th 95th 
  $320,000 $440,000   $600,000 $720,000

Source: 2018 Robert Half Salary Guide 

Finance managers within the financial services sector who are able to maximise business profitability are highly valuable to organisations. In a competitive business environment, highly experienced finance managers – particularly those with strong commercial acumen and leadership skills – can expect to receive above-average salary gains in 2018 when negotiating starting salaries.  

2.    Compliance Manager 

  Salary Range      
Percentiles 25th   50th 75th 95th 
  $600,000 $720,000 $864,000  $996,000

Source: 2018 Robert Half Salary Guide 

Regulatory requirements are heating up in Hong Kong, which puts companies under increasing pressure to ensure their business practices are compliant – which is continuing to strengthen demand for compliance managers within financial services. 

3.    Trade Support Manager 

  Salary Range      
Percentiles 25th   50th 75th 95th 
  $465,000 $591,000 $716,000 $800,000

Source: 2018 Robert Half Salary Guide 

Demand is increasing within Hong Kong’s financial services sector for trade support professionals who can efficiently manage client relations, investment strategy and effectively mitigate ongoing risk. Because of this, demand is increasing for these skilled professionals – placing them in an optimum position to negotiate a higher starting salary when commencing a new job. 

Financial services: Top performers can expect pay rises in 2018
Hong Kong’s financial services employers understand the importance of awarding pay increases to retain their top-performing staff, particularly in a skills-short market where 95% of CFOs within financial services say it is challenging to find qualified professionals in Hong Kong. 

As revealed in the 2018 Robert Half Salary Guide, the overwhelming majority (100%) of CFOs within the financial services sector plan to attribute pay rises to an average of 13% of their staff in 2018, with the average salary increase expected to be 7.5%. The generous expected pay increases sit well above the annual national wage growth, which sits at an average of 3.8% [2].

“While salary is still the primary motivator when accepting a new job, employees are also increasingly realising the added value of additional benefits, such as flexible work hours and professional development opportunities. These benefits are in demand by employees and an efficient way for companies to reward staff whilst not necessarily increasing pay,” concluded Adam Johnston. 

[1] The 2018 Robert Half Salary Guide contains new formatting for how the starting salaries for each position is presented. The salary ranges are now presented in percentiles (rather than the low-to-high ranges used previously). These percentiles are determined by a candidate’s skillset and experience level, as well as the complexity of their role – the higher the percentile the more complex the role and the greater skillset and experience level required.

By providing a more comprehensive salary overview for all jobs, this approach allows hiring managers to better benchmark starting salaries against a candidate’s experience and qualifications, as well as guides candidates through the necessary steps they can take to earn a higher salary.  

[2] https://www.censtatd.gov.hk/hkstat/sub/sp210.jsp 

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About the Robert Half Salary Guide
The 2018 Robert Half Salary Guide is the most comprehensive and authoritative resource on starting salaries and recruitment trends in finance and accounting, financial services and information technology.

It offers a comprehensive overview of the current salary ranges, industry trends and specific job trends for finance and accounting professionals, finance professionals in the financial services sector and technology professionals. The results and insights of the 2018 Robert Half Salary Guide are based on comprehensive analyses, local job placements, local expertise and independent research of executives and office workers. 

About the research
The annual study is developed by Robert Half and was conducted in December 2017-January 2018 by an independent research company, surveying 75 CFOs within financial services in Hong Kong. This survey is part of the international workplace survey, a questionnaire about job trends, talent management and trends in the workplace.  

  • 99% of Hong Kong CFOs have hired an employee that did not meet expectations, primarily because of underqualified candidates (48%), a mismatch of skills (39%) and candidates found to be lying on their CVs (28%).
  • 41% had to let the employee at hand go, while 33% respectively re-started the recruitment process and partnered with a staffing agency to secure a replacement.
  • Employers cite increased workload for colleagues (53%), increased stress on colleagues and managers (39%), and higher recruitment costs (33%) as the biggest consequences of a bad hire.

New independent research commissioned by specialised recruiter Robert Half shows the majority (99%) of Hong Kong CFOs have hired an employee that did not meet expectations, and more than one in three (37%) took just two weeks to discover that they have hired the wrong person.

According to the study of 150 CFOs, 37% typically realise within a fortnight that a new hire is not meeting expectations. The most common reasons given were underqualified candidates (48%), a mismatch of skills (39%) and candidates found to be lying on their CVs (28%).

What to do with a bad hire?

When asked what steps they took to address the poor hiring decision(s), 41% of CFOs say they terminated the employee contract, whilst 33% respectively re-started the recruitment process from scratch and partnered with a staffing agency to secure a replacement. Close to one-third (31%) of finance employers decided to deal with the matter internally by looking for an internal vacancy the candidate would be better suited for and 30% developed a training program to develop the employee’s skills to the desired level. Still less than one in four (23%) adopted a ‘wait and see’ approach to see if the employee’s performance would improve.

The cost of a bad hire

Hiring the wrong person for the job can significantly impact the organisation. The top three consequences of a bad hire according to finance employers are increased workload for colleagues (53%), increased stress on colleagues and managers (39%) and higher recruitment costs (33%). Other cited negative consequences include increased workloads for managers (27%), lost productivity (26%) and low staff morale (23%).

Bad hires can be highly costly for companies, though many Hong Kong companies struggle with accurately calculating the cost of hiring the wrong person. While 11% say they don’t track these costs, almost half (47%) fail to compile all the data in a single overview. Almost three in 10 (29%) say some costs are not accurately measurable and 9% admit they have not looked at doing it. Merely 3% say they do not find it challenging.

Adam Johnston, Managing Director of Robert Half Hong Kong said: “Businesses go to great lengths to find the right candidate, but the cost of not hiring an adequate employee can be significant. Whether organisations decide to terminate their employment or invest in additional training, it will impact the company financially and can cause significant disruption and stress to the existing workforce, indicating the importance of getting it right.”

“While some factors, such as cultural fit, attitude, or even the credibility of candidates’ qualification or experience, can be challenging to account for in an interview; an experienced interviewer and a rigorous hiring process can prevent a wrong hire to take place, such as by asking the right questions, thoroughly testing skills and meticulous reference checking. Employers would benefit from reviewing their hiring policies to ensure they strike the right balance between efficiency and rigour,” concluded Adam Johnston.

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About the research

The annual study is developed by Robert Half and was conducted in December 2017 by an independent research firm, surveying 150 CFOs in Hong Kong. This survey is part of the international workplace survey, a questionnaire about job trends, talent management and trends in the workplace. >

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