Salary Growth in Hong Kong at 3 to 5 Percent; Commercially Aware Accountants in Demand

Salary growth in Hong Kong is forecast to expand modestly in 2017 across many industries, with those staying in their present job expected to see a pay rise of 3% to 5%, according to Robert Walters' 18th annual Global Salary Survey.

Job movers will see on average a 10% to 15% pay increase, although this could increase to up to 30% for more in-demand positions such as in treasury, following Hong Kong’s launch of corporate incentives for global treasury centers to be established in the city.

Accounting and finance

Recruitment activity in accounting and finance grew steadily in 2016, but the focus was on replacement rather than new headcount, reports Robert Walters. Two of the most active markets were technology and telecommunications, which needed greater finance infrastructure support on the back of the rapid growth in e-commerce and mobile payments in China.

China’s vaunted Belt and Road Initiative, which seeks to harness Chinese capital to build infrastructure in countries along the five land and maritime Silk Road routes, also fueled accounting and finance hiring. The trend should continue in 2017, with candidates having experience in construction and public infrastructure continuing to be sought after.

“Industries such as pharmaceuticals, biotechnology and medical devices show promising growth,” adds Robert Walters. “Treasury will also remain an active sector.”

Commercial savvy

Robert Walters also expects “commercial-aware accountants with strong technical skills who can advise on financial issues at a senior level” to continue to be in high demand.

“’People management’ in the traditional sense of leading large teams seems to be becoming less relevant,” the recruitment company observes. “The focus has shifted to a more holistic view.”

By this, it refers to skills for business partnering and stakeholder management,  “where professionals need to build relationships and influence members acorss business functions – both up and down.”  

Focus on technology

Across industries, Robert Walters expects high demand for fintech, mobile development, e-commerce, big data and cybersecurity professionals in Hong Kong.

The fintech sector in particular is experiencing exponential growth due to factors including rising demand for new innovative technologies, more stringent regulations and stronger awareness.

But according to Hilly Dannaoui, director of IT commerce, supply chain, procurement and logistics at Robert Walters Hong Kong, the impact from the fintech startups remain minimal at the moment. He said the growth in this sector is mainly driven by established banks and financial institutions seeking out professionals who are tech-savvy and can implement fintech innovations. 

Despite the rising buzz around blockchain, the impact of hiring in the banking and finance sector remains limited in the short term. But in the long term, John Mullally, director for banking and financial services said back office and settlement service roles are expected to be eliminated.

"Many of these roles are being outsourced now, but they will be eliminated eventually," he said.

Mullally added the rising of fintech and blockchain is changing the corporate culture among the banking and finance sector. Instead of being more proprietary, these organizations are learning to be more collaborative and open with each other. The hiring priorities have also moved from seeking process-driven skills to technology-oriented knowhow. 

"More banks are looking for technologists that understand process to take up the back office roles, rather than translating process-oriented skills into learn about technology," said Mullally.

Social diversity

Across sectors, sales and marketing specialists with digital and e-commerce skills as well as general management experience will be the prime hiring targets in 2017, Robert Walters said.

“One of the significant trends of 2017 will be promoting social diversity. Companies that are recruiting from diverse cultural and academic background will be seen as more attractive employers,” Robert Walters MD for Greater China Matthew Bennett commented.

“Hiring managers should also be aware of a shift in candidate priorities when recruiting in 2017. While in recent years jobseekers were more concerned about remuneration, specialist professionals are increasingly demanding a stimulating and open working environment, where communication and collaborative skills are highly valued.” 

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