Modest salary increases for Hong Kong professionals despite active recruitment by companies

19 July 2016

While hiring activity remains strong in Hong Kong, the majority of professionals in accounting, finance, banking and technology should expect only modest salary rises in 2016.

According to the latest Salary Guide released by recruitment firm Robert Half, 83 per cent of employees can expect their wages to stay the same or to increase between one and five per cent.

Only 16 per cent of jobs will command an increase of between six and nine per cent while less than one in a hundred (0.6 per cent) of roles will enjoy salary increases of 10 per cent or more.

The Robert Half 2016 Salary guide covers four markets in Asia – Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and Shanghai.  The industry sectors that the guide covers are:

  • Finance and Accounting:  Including accountants, finance, credit, tax, and treasury experts working in a range of industry sectors.
  • Banking and Financial Services:  Covering roles in banks, insurance and financial institutions, including risk, compliance, finance and accounting/control and operations.
  • Technology: Covering roles such as CIOs (Chief Information Officers), IT directors, application managers, IT architects, network engineers, programme managers and security professionals.

Table 1:  Expected salary increase ranges

% Salary Increase Total Finance & Accounting Banking & Financial Services Technology
0-5% 83% 83% 86% 79%
6-9% 16% 15% 14% 21%
10%+ 1% 2% 0% 0%

Source: Robert Half 2016 Salary Guide

Mr Adam Johnston, Robert Half’s Managing Director for Hong Kong and Japan said there were plenty of opportunities for professionals seeking to move to a new company or to seek advancement within their existing company.

“Nine in ten CFOs and CIOs we surveyed plan to make new hires in the first half of 2016, either to add to their headcount or to replace existing employees that have left.”

“Even with this level of hiring activity we are not seeing large jumps in remuneration levels.  Compared to three years ago, salary increases will be modest unless the role is a difficult one to fill or a candidate has a specialised skill that the company needs.”

“The smaller salary rises reflect a change in the way employers are viewing the local labour market.  In previous years business leaders have typically cited the lack of supply of candidates as the chief factor making it difficult to get professional talent.  This year employers are struggling to find candidates with the right skills.  So it’s not a lack of supply that is the problem, it’s a lack of skills.”

“This focus by employers on skills mean they are only prepared to pay top dollar for exceptional candidates,” said Mr Johnston.

Finance and Accounting

While 83 per cent of Finance and Accounting roles will see stable or modest wage growth of up to five percent, another 17 per cent of roles will enjoy an increase of six per cent or more.

Double digit increase will be rare except for senior roles in critically important area.  One example is a Director of Internal Audit at a large company (>500 employees).  Candidates with the right experience are hard to find so they can expect their salary to increase by 11 per cent.  

Highly sought after finance and accounting skills are:

  • Business/Financial Analysis
  • Risk and Compliance
  • Cost Accounting/Costing
  • Financial Planning and Analysis
  • Audit

Banking and Financial Services

Salaries within the banking and financial services sector are expected to be flat for the first half of the year.

Reflecting reduced headcounts in banks around the world, the salary increases on offer for Hong Kong professionals are expected to be five per cent or less for the vast majority of financial services employees (86 per cent). 

Only senior positions can command an increase of greater than five per cent, such as Senior Vice President/Managing Director of Operations Risk (seven per cent) and Senior Vice President/Managing Director of Risk Project Management (seven per cent).

Highly sought after financial services skills are:

  • Accounting/Finance
  • Operations support
  • Compliance
  • Risk
  • Revenue-generating/Business development

Technology

Technology employees are the most likely to enjoy a salary increase of more than five per cent in 2016.  Salary increases of between six and nine percent are on offer for 21 per cent of technology roles.

The hottest jobs in the Hong Kong Technology sector are project management roles, valued at eight per cent higher than last year.  Many of these project management professionals are employed to implement new technology initiatives designed to keep banks and financial institutions ahead of the wave of innovation coming from Fintech firms.

Highly sought after technology skills include:

  • Security
  • Applications development
  • Data/Database management
  • Software development
  • Web development/Web design
  • System administration

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About the research

The annual study is developed by Robert Half and conducted by an independent research firm, surveying 275 senior business leaders 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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