Hong Kong Salaries Set to Remain Static in 2017

Salaries in Hong Kong remained largely static across the board in 2016, with only a 3-6% year-on-year salary increase and 10% salary increment for both internal promotions and external moves, according to Morgan McKinley’s 2017 Salary Guide.

The global recruiter attributes this trend to the uncertainty surrounding the Hong Kong market in the wake of a multitude of factors, namely the slow growth in the Chinese economy, together with the EU referendum in the United Kingdom and the start of the US interest rate hike cycle.

Replacement hires represented the majority of recruitment activity last year, with the larger corporations taking a cautious approach towards approving headcount budgets.

However hiring has been active in certain sectors, with regulatory, compliance, innovation, digital marketing and technology jobs flowing throughout the year. It is anticipated that this trend is set to continue throughout 2017 meaning that professionals with skills in these areas will be highly sought after.

Sector highlights:

Front Office: Basic salary levels remained largely unchanged throughout 2016 across front office functions and this trend is likely to continue throughout 2017.

Certain corporate banks, particularly those who have seen significant staff attrition, have increased their base salary significantly to retain their bankers this year, but this is far from the norm.

Operations: Continued demand for client facing talent within operations in 2016, although many firms are facing tight recruitment budgets.

Popular roles have been trader assistants, sales assistants and client servicing professionals.

Compliance: Mainly replacement roles across compliance for 2017 is expected, as clients continue to outsource some of the operational compliance function to countries like India, Malaysia and the Philippines. However, there will be incremental increase in roles across growth areas, such as FinTech.

Risk: Continued demand for risk management roles in private banks across business risk (1st line of defense), credit risk and monitoring roles.

Operational risk management remained quiet for 2016, and this trend is expected to continue throughout 2017. For market risk opportunities, the Volcker rule, which is part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street and Consumer Protection Act, is one of the main reasons for contracting levels of market risk opportunities.

IT: Demand for change management professionals, cyber security experts as well as advance network and infrastructure specialists shows no sign of slowing down.

Technology insurance and asset management firms are driving significant demand for advanced developers, technical project foundation in order to enrich their competitiveness in such a fast evolving market.

Finance & Accounting: Although there has been a recent trend of MNCs relocating their regional offices from Hong Kong to Singapore and Shanghai, accounting and finance professionals with regional exposure are still in demand. Roles including regional financial planning, analysis and regional controller are also sought after.

Sales & Marketing: Within financial services, the trending areas are digital marketing and CRM.

Majority of consumer banks and insurance companies are investing in digital initiatives and enhancing content management and social media experience.

A reasonable amount of growth in the FMCG sector, mostly driven by the well performing eCommerce sector, with shoppers increasingly favouring convenient and efficient ways of shopping. The internet and mobile start up sector remains strong. With the emerging payment and e-wallet businesses arriving in Hong Kong, Sales and marketing professionals should keep an eyes on these markets.

HR: Decline in regional roles within MNCs as some companies have moved their regional offices to Singapore and Shanghai. However, there has been an increase in China-based firms acquiring businesses globally and using Hong Kong as their headquarters, creating strategic HR opportunities with a regional and global remit.

Talent with change management, HR transformation, international exposure and overseas office set up experience have been in demand.

Office Support: Very high demand for EAs and office managers in 2016, with a high proficiency in English and conversational Chinese.

A similar outlook is expected for 2017. Salaries will remain stable, however employers will still pay a premium for EA or office managers that have the relevant combination of experience and language skills. 

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