The following report provides an update on the key trends that we have observed within the Accounting & Finance job market in Hong Kong. It identifies emerging themes across various industries and details the major factors impacting hiring and talent movement.
2016 was a year marked by black swan events. Internationally, both Brexit and Donald Trump’s victory in the U.S. presidential election have had a profound effect on the international economic system. Furthermore, the interest rate hikes by the U.S. Federal Reserve and the reduction of oil production will continue to impact financial markets. In Asia, Ms. Tsai Ing-wen was elected the President of Taiwan and Mr. Rodrigo Duterte took office in the Philippines, both of which added uncertainty to the Asian economic and political landscapes.
Despite the unstable global economic outlook, Hong Kong’s economy expanded by 4.3% in real terms in the first quarter of 2017, after growing by 2% in 2016.
In nominal terms, the value of retail sales has dropped by 1.3% year-on-year in the January to March 2017 period, however the economy as a whole is forecast to grow by 2 to 3% this year.
The labour market in Hong Kong is stable but is not without its challenges. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Hong Kong stood at 3.2% in the first quarter of this year, unchanged from the previous quarter.
The strengthening dollar is posing challenges to businesses that manage multiple currencies, particularly in the South East Asia region. As a result, senior accounting & finance executives are now expected to have strong capital management and risk management expertise as well as experience in managing a regional treasury function.
In addition to business process outsourcing, shared services centers and ERP system implementations, companies today are looking at opportunities to boost efficiency and cut costs through the use of Robotic Process Automation.
Businesses are continuing to streamline their regional accounting & finance teams due to the digital disruption in the financial sector coupled with high operating costs in Hong Kong. As such, it is now becoming the norm for the accounting & finance function to step up and act as a business partnering function too. In a highly competitive recruitment market, candidates who can provide companies with financial insights that support their business growth will be ahead of the game.
Specialists in the corporate function will continue to be in high demand during the second half of 2017, especially within tax, treasury, M&A and audit.
SALARIES & BONUSES
Most companies paid their bonuses in the first quarter of this year, which were generally down in most organisations. This has caused frustrations among strong performers and, as a result, they have been the first ones to seek new roles in the first half of this year.
Salary increases in 2017 have been fairly minimal across all sectors. Most companies provided staff with a small increment in line with inflation, with some issuing a salary freeze conditional on economic growth.
The average salary increment observed in the market at the senior level, for those that did receive an increase, was in the vicinity of 4 to 6%.
Due to a highly competitive recruitment market, accounting & finance candidates have been open to new opportunities without salary increases.
Although hiring activity in key sectors such as retail and financial services stalled in the first and second quarters of 2017, we predict that the pace will pick up in the second half of the year, with CFOs looking to expand their teams, although with caution and at a lower rate than more buoyant years.
It will be no surprise that there will be strong hiring activity within Chinese-headquartered conglomerates, many of which have been developing their international footprint rapidly, often using Hong Kong as a launch pad to markets outside of China.
Startups will continue to recruit candidates with experience in managing and supporting fintech, mobile development, eCommerce, big data and cyber security businesses.
In the second half of 2017, we expect an uptick in hiring activity despite the challenges currently present. However, the competition will remain fierce amongst candidates wanting to land their ideal role.