On the heels of a robust start to the year, quarter-on-quarter figures across the APAC region for permanent and contract jobs, as well as professionals seeking new roles, are down in quarter 2, according to the latest Morgan McKinley APAC Employment Monitor for Q2 2016.
While professionals seeking new roles dropped from 61,864 in Q1 to 39,890 in Q2, year-on-year figures showed an increase of 23%, from 32,499 to 39,890. Year-on-year permanent jobs remained steady, with a minor decline of 3%, from 16,052 to 15,610. Quarter-on-quarter contract positions are down 30%, year-on-year down 13%.
“As expected, the first quarter absorbed the annual post-bonus spike in job-seekers,” said Richie Holliday, Chief Operations Officer, Morgan McKinley Asia Pacific. Bonuses in parts of the region are distributed shortly before the Lunar New Year, which came early in 2016, falling on 8th February. In a reflection of the wavering Chinese economy, employees there reported a drop in bonuses from previous years.
“The most popular areas for hiring across APAC are private wealth management and private banking,” said Holliday. “By and large, financial services hiring remained steady however hiring all but stalled for investment banking.”
The annual World Wealth Report compiled by Capgemini showed a growth of 10% in wealth in the APAC region, with more of the world’s wealth controlled by Asian millionaires than their North American or European counterparts. Therefore it comes as little surprise that institutions are diverting efforts to growing private banking arms and focusing on mergers and acquisitions (M&A) instead of more traditional business revenue generating efforts.
As most APAC countries follow a January through December fiscal calendar year, budgets for new projects are normally signed off on in late Q3 or early Q4. These fresh revenue streams are released in the New Year for spending on new platforms, assignments and staffing needs. This seasonal factor means a spike in Q1 contractor hiring, followed by a Q2 drop, was to be expected and is reflected in the data.
“The cyclical nature of the numbers is hiding the underlying story, which is that financial institutions are scurrying to ramp up their fintech efforts,” says Holliday about the immense growth in the field, which relies heavily on expert contractors and which is having a significant impact on both CMOs and CTOs.
According to a recent Accenture study, fintech investment more than quadrupled in 2015 to $4.3 billion in APAC countries.
“The expertise needed for fintech can’t be met by in-house staff. Without the operational knowledge on hand, we’ll continue to see financial institutions engage contractors with expertise in new platforms,” says Holliday. “Everyone in the industry is aware of the power of digital and data, and the Asian market, where customers’ number one choice is Internet 4.0 services, this sector will only grow.”
In Singapore, a stark decline in manufacturing jobs, financial services is generating hiring growth, with wealth management and fintech leading the way. Singapore is the region’s leading fintech hub.
The outlook for Hong Kong is far from rosy. Q1 saw quarterly economic growth hit a four-year low. Ongoing stock market volatility, as well as poor performance in retail and property markets all contributed to what amounted to a mere 0.8% growth, about half of what had been projected.
With a quarter-on-quarter drop of 22% in professionals seeking jobs, it’s clear that professionals are holding back. There was, however, a 6% increase in jobs available from Q1. Year-on-year, Hong Kong was the only market to have the same number of contract roles available.
Save for very slight salary increases specific to IT developers and middle and back office and risk management VPs, data from Emolument.com show year-on-year salary decreases across IT, risk management, compliance and middle and back offices. Senior compliance managers have seen a year-on-year drop of $20,000 in annual salary, and a halving of bonuses.
With an eye to maintaining long-term global competitiveness, the Chinese government has launched an effort to recruit top professional talent from the international market and is easing visa restrictions for qualified candidates.
Meanwhile, according to the China Institute for Employment Research, the domestic labour market’s response to overcapacity is resulting in the shedding of jobs in manufacturing and energy sectors in particular.
China’s appetite for international talent is further reflected in its increase of foreign direct investment in Europe, which reached record heights of $23 billion in 2015.
Europe is attractive to China because of its large pool of highly educated professionals and relative lack of investment, as compared to the United States. Further, Europeans demonstrate a greater willingness than their American counterparts to enter foreign-language markets.