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What’s with Bank Hiring?

  1. #11

    Join Date
    Nov 2010

    After a year actively looking to get into mid career, the only pathways Ive seen work in HK now have been to either join as a grad and dont leave a firm decades or work for a supplier then transfer across to work directly.

    Flapster likes this.

  2. #12

    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Cramped island

    Let me say a few words on banking industry. Background, i was an Electronics trained engineer in radar research until 2003, when i moved into banking sector then with a MSC in financial engineering. Rolled around mainly in capital markets for 14 years.. Finally managed to get out and now over into a corporate treasury role. My views might be skewed towards roles very close to the Capital markets, different from the OP's specialty in digital or some IBD guys experience. But i think it scope up fairly well on how the HRs of the banks will handle normal job applicants.

    Banking is as always, unfortunately, highly leveraged industry in terms of everything, i.e. not just balance sheet but also human resources. When I started, i was in Capital markets, and over the years i have rotated around roles involving derivatives and my last job was wealth management. My career was not that bad, despite the tone of despise I usually have on banking.. most guys would be fighting hard for a role in derivative structuring/trading/sales today, and last 5 years before i left I was actually in wealth management products, which is a major clog of profit for banks in this region during the period.

    What's the structural problem. We look at the cycle post 1997. Prior to that, banking was very relationship driven and very lucrative. The older generation bankers that are now 50~60y.o are all retiring with multiple properties and running their charity trusts.

    After the 97 bust hit Asia, it started a new and very short cycle of booms and busts. 98 - asia, 00 - nasdaq, 03 - SARS, 08 - GFC, 11 - European, .....
    Post 97, until after SARS, the market was frozen. No doubt the tech bubble run was there, but not many banks expanded their team as most wasn't as certain of that bubble run. Bank hiring really started in 04/05. And the market at that time was very short of technically competent financial guys.
    I remembered in 04/05, when i first stepped into the industry with a Msc in Financial engineering, then which not many in this part of the world had, the world was really the oyster. In 05, despite being merely a 2y.o, trader, I had headhunters calling me every other day. So at that point, anyone with a half decent ability to solve differential equation jumped into quantitative finance and financial engineering. One of the UK bank had a rotating desk of 20-30 young engineers around trying to churn out new products every other day.
    But the boom was short, by 08 everything became a mess. Then there was a short spike in 09/10, but again the European problem came about and in 11 everything was frozen again. Subsequently, i have not seen successful expansion of banking teams. The only aggressive ones like SCB, have been repeating their hiring and firing processes every 2-3 years. Good for senior bankers to add to their fat bank account but not really helpful to those that are building their career at this juncture.

    So what do we have now. We have a whole street, especially in hk, currently full of quant finance, financial engineering, finance MBA, CFA and all the nots. Most of these are in their late 20s early 30s, hungry for their first pot of gold. Many of them could be ex bankers that are now trying out different things but waiting to pounce back to banks. Those with 'medium luck' are probably in the banks middle/back office waiting for a front office role to open up so they can apply for internal transfer, those with even lessor luck can be with new Private Equity fund or External Asset Manager fund startups, drawing little base pay but hoping that they can hit a few jackpots then get poached by Blackstone or whoever else.

    In terms of the banks. Cost containment is extremely emphasized. Many are relying on contract staff and does not have headcounts. Rationalizing of team has still been carried out over the last few years despite the appearance of good businesses. So remaining staff have to do double or triple the work compared to previously. Heavy scrutiny by the regulators means legal and compliance becomes overly powerful and unfortunately, with very few banking knowledgeable compliance officers around, very much a hindrance to business more than help.

    So in no specific order, these are my thoughts and views (which i am sure many Geo-bankers will disagree):
    - There are alot more people hunting for a banking job than jobs available. Most desk that are making money will try to maintain status quo and it is difficult for them to expand to new area without regulator/compliance blessings
    - Hirers are more keen to take on incumbents from a competitor than to try a new untested individual. why ? because even though the cost of hiring from competitor is higher, in a highly leveraged environment the risk-reward is better than a low cost newcomer. Most desk do not want to waste time training up a new chap despite the competency.
    - Many hirers are also testing water and going through the process. Interviews especially for the front line jobs are about understanding what competitors are doing.
    - Things change fast. Job scopes written for a job are likely to change several times as management information and market trend changes. By the end of a 2 month process, job descriptions probably changed 50% because of changes in other part of the team.

    While that does not answer to the OP's specialty (i.e. digital domain), it kind of reflect the way banks are treating hiring these days. If you are someone they are going to hire to take over the head of an existing well established desk, then yes. They are super on-the-ball and will make sure things go smoothly while keeping you updated. If they are hiring for another person to fill a newly created post (i.e. not at MD kind of seniority) then forget the pampering, they know they have the upper hand and they will abuse it as much as they want.
    Blaming the HR ? hmm.. i doubt the HR has much say in the process honestly. For banks HR is just a very minor supporting function at the hiring stage. They will do the cross check the salary proposal etc.etc.. but decision are going to be hiring desk driven.

    What can one do ? I think if you have a good friendly route to go through to the hiring head, its always useful. But don't count on it too much and don't abuse it. Read the market well and try to see where you are more valuable and not easily replaced as compared to the other. e.g. ability to speak some rare languages where everyone wants to do business in, have whole village of relatives that are all multi-billionaire. etc.

    If you want certainty, figure out a way to target compliance/risk management roles. Market are still short of good compliance people so if you have superb derivative knowledge with a law degree, you stand a chance of moving in that direction. Risk management roles are less likely for brand newcomer, but at least their job scope are less likely to change quickly within 2 months.

    Enough ranting on a friday morning. Good luck to the bank job searchers.

    Last edited by freeier; 13-07-2018 at 11:01 AM.
    nivantj, tf19, nation and 2 others like this.

  3. #13

    Join Date
    Jul 2004

    @freeier That is fantastically insightful post regardless of some people might agree with some points and others with other points..

    shri likes this.

  4. #14

    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Hong Kong
    Quote Originally Posted by freeier

    Enough ranting on a friday morning. Good luck to the bank job searchers.
    Not a rant, great post. Thanks for your insight. Really a lot of this applies to us all in our respective industries The connections, causes and eventualities may be different but to understand why hiring is like it is today in each of our industries (and even for our functional area or seniority within our industry) we need to understand how our industry has progressed.
    shri likes this.

  5. #15

    Join Date
    Oct 2010

    It's mostly bollocks, it sounds much more like a whine and story of personal failure than any wider treatise on the industry.

    For the OP, I think you are just dealing with the reality that supply exceeds demand and the further you go in your career the harder it is to get a new job. There are dozens of smart guys with 5-15 years experience who are cheaper, and possibly bi or trilingual.

    This has always been a competitive business and by the time most front office people reach the 20 year mark, they are already in a position to retire. Its much harder to break in at the senior end without personal connections and recommendations.

    The issue of HR being rude and terrible is a separate issue, and more likely to be a HK-local thing I feel.

    rs4 and z754103 like this.

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