Dec 8, 2011

Overseas opportunities from Asia to Africa: Why the world wants Chinese bankers

As mainland banks expand across the world, Chinese professionals are increasingly eyeing up transfers to an overseas office....

Emma Charnock, regional director of Hays in Hong Kong & China, says: “Most of the largest Chinese state-owned banks would have representative offices or branches located in major cities like New York, Sydney and London. So there are definitely opportunities for Chinese bankers who have an interest to go abroad to develop their career.”

Which countries are in most need of Chinese talent? “We have seen job postings for hiring in countries in virtually every continent, including Africa and Central Asia, as well as in major Western cities like London and New York,” says Peter Chan, managing partner at Blue Avenue Associates. “And for sure ICBC and Bank of Communications in Hong Kong will want to hire staff from the mainland, as well as Bank of China in the UK.”

Charnock says countries with a high level of business interaction with China have the most jobs. “Many overseas banks now have a Chinese employee or team that is assigned to look after Chinese-immigrant business in their respective countries. We expect this trend to keep growing as Chinese business opportunities get stronger and stronger overseas.”

Asian countries with a Chinese heritage and a big expat population, like Hong Kong and Singapore, are the most open to mainland professionals. Recruiters agree that Hong Kong is the main destination because banks based there do a lot of work with mainland clients, so they need mainland bankers to manage these relationships.

Foreign banks in China also offer transfers because they already have established international networks. “Sometime this is done as an incentive to motivate an employee through job rotation on short-term assignment and give them the opportunity to travel abroad. Most established foreign banks would normally consider internal candidates first when there are internal openings, which of course also gives rises to international opportunities,” says Charnock.

Job functions play an important role in deciding whether you will find it easy to work abroad – it all depends on how transferable your skills are. “Apart from the sales function – being one of the Chinese sales-team members – opportunities also exist in areas such as IT and operations. This expertise seems to be more transferable from country to country. In comparison, areas such as accountancy, legal, and compliance could be more difficult because these positions require local knowledge as each country differs in terms of relevant frameworks,” says Charnock.