Jan 13, 2011

Turnover rates are sky high in China as banks lose retention battle

The percentage of banks that are currently losing managerial employees is almost double the average for all sectors in China, according to the recent Antal Global Snapshot, a survey of job market trends. And the retention situation may be even worse for foreign firms.

On one hand, the report reveals that 85 per cent of banks are recruiting senior staff, which is only slightly higher than the industry-wide figure for China. However, at the same time, 53 per cent of these banks are losing or laying off managers – well above the 27 per cent rate for the whole economy.

Graeme Read, Antal International Group managing director, explains why turnover rates are high in Chinese banking: “Part of the reason is because the domestic economy is so strong and the global economy is also getting better. There’s a big demand for people with the right skills and that leads to a high turnover rate. Banks and financial services firms are expanding into the rural areas, where there’s a talent shortage, and this also contributes to it.”

Foreign institutions may be finding it especially difficult to retain their managers. A trend is developing in which candidates move from international banks to domestic ones because Chinese banks often provide safer and longer-term career options, says Read.

Many of the early batch of senior managers from foreign banks have now become branch managers of Chinese banks in second and third-tier cities, says Kyle Qin, associate consultant, SHfinder. Candidates are also attracted to local banks because of their size. “China Minsheng Bank has a flow of business exceeding 4bn yuan in one month, while some foreign banks can only reach that figure in one year,” adds Qin.

Read says international banks try to retain staff by offering better compensation packages, more responsibility, and career development programmes.“There were large redundancies in foreign banks during bad economy times, but Chinese banks have been a lot more stable in the last three years, so they seem as a better career option to Chinese talents. The challenge for foreign banks is to appear more stable.”