Banks are increasingly demanding that their employees in Asia can speak Mandarin.Bankers looking to Asia will no longer be able to rely upon just speaking English to land a job, according to a leading financial services headhunter.
Demand for bankers who can speak Mandarin has risen sharply, particularly in Singapore and Hong Kong, research from recruitment firm Astbury Marsden has found.
A reduction in banking jobs as firms shed staff during the global slowdown has given employers the upper hand and allowed them to become more selective in their recruitment searches.
One skill they are demanding bankers have is the ability to speak Mandarin, given the growing importance of wealthy Chinese clients in Asia.
Applicants are now finding it so tough that non-Mandarin speakers have very little prospect of securing employment in Hong Kong.
Mark O’Reilly, managing director of Astbury Marsden Asia Pacific, said: “For British expat bankers, having the technical skills and experience is no longer enough. If your role in a bank or investment house is to deal with a mainland Chinese client, you are now expected to be fluent in Mandarin.
“There are still plenty of jobs in Hong Kong where you just deal with other English speakers but with the growth of Chinese banks, insurers and other corporates those jobs are a shrinking proportion of the pie.”
Mandarin speakers are needed most in the areas of merger and acquisitions (M&A), management consultancy and private banking.
As China’s economy grows, so too does its personal wealth. The Middle Kingdom is now the world’s second largest economy behind the US and has more than 1.4 million millionaires. These affluent individuals are keen to take their money out of China and invest it in stable financial hubs like Singapore and Hong Kong.
A handful of big Western private banks are currently recruiting in Hong Kong, expanding their private banking arms to better serve high net worth Chinese clients.
For those bankers who don’t speak Mandarin, there are still roles that don’t require a second tongue, such as trading and compliance work.
Popular expat destination Australia has also spotted the need to become more Asia-centric. It has just launched a new programme called “Australia in the Asian century” which is aimed at improving language skills. All Australian schoolchildren will be eligible to learn an Asian language under the programme.
A report outlining the new measures states: “The capacity for Australians to build deeper ties with Asia will be hampered if there is not an increase in proficiency of languages other than English.”
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