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Profile has continued to see significant recruitment activity in the COO and Business Management space over the last 12 months.

As seasoned Asian specialists in this area, we would like to share our latest market update on the landscape as we see it from a human capital perspective. This report reviews the changing role of COOs and Business Managers in Asia and discusses the latest industry trends.


2016 will be remembered as a year that started with uncertainty around the China markets, the US elections and Brexit but finished on a more positive and potentially stable economic tone. This macroeconomic backdrop along with the changing and tightening regulatory environment across all sectors within the broader financial services arena have affected the nature of job roles across APAC over the last 18 months, including Chief Operating Officers (COOs) and Business Managers.

The role of a COO and Business Manager are often described as “the most widely used but also the most ill-defined position in the firm”, however we have observed various changes in the increasingly specialist subject matter expertise demanded in these roles. Specialists, change agents and influencers are in demand, while administrators are not. As a true infrastructure search specialist, and in today’s challenging environment, we remain very active in this space.


What are the top skills hiring managers are seeking from COOs and Business Managers today, and how does this compare to before?


  • COOs and Business Managers were usually hired from within the organisation as existing employees were thought to have the knowledge and right connections to get things done.

  • Understanding the product was viewed as the most important skill in order to succeed as a COO or Business Manager.

  • Candidates with a background in operations, finance, middle office, product control or projects were in high demand.

  • Different banks hired COOs/Business Managers from very different backgrounds, such as accounting or those with technical systems know-how.


  • Clients are hiring more talent from outside of the organisation, particularly those who have an in-depth understanding of regulatory affairs, to help with the increasing number of new regulatory issues facing businesses today.

  • Whilst understanding the product continues to be an important skill, accounting, project management, analytical and influencing skills are also at the forefront.

  • Candidates with a risk-based mindset and a background in operational risk and/or compliance are highly sought after.

  • Banks today are seeking candidates who can confidently face off with front office and help guide them through new implementations.


Clients are increasingly seeking COOs and Business Managers with APAC regulatory experience in order to help them mitigate a daunting and complex regulatory environment. In addition to COOs and Business Managers requiring APAC regulatory experience, they must also be able to translate strategic visions into feasible actions.

With firms having to do more with less, our clients are looking for individuals with nuanced or diverse backgrounds. Diversity creates sustainable and stronger teams, which will help organisations withstand any headwinds which 2017 and beyond may throw their way.



Companies in the asset management space are expanding their operations into new markets across APAC, which is resulting in a greater need for COOs and Business Managers with expertise in change management.

COOs and Business Managers with Mandarin skills remain in high demand as Chinese firms continue to grow their operations. Some of these firms are hiring COOs and Business Managers based in China with the view of transferring them to Hong Kong in the future.

We are also witnessing an interesting trend whereby candidates from the sales side are actively looking to move into the buy side.


There has been a heavy emphasis on doing more with less through efficiency and cost management compounded by continuously evolving technology. Smaller companies are also calling upon their CFOs to double as COOs or Business Managers too.

Clients are increasingly considering sell-side candidates or those from a traditional long only background.


Within corporate & investment banking, clients are favouring candidates who have the ability to participate in and influence strategic discussions. In addition, clients within this space are searching for talent with business planning & analysis expertise, a proven ability in coordinating various projects sponsored by C suite and senior management, as well as those who can rise to challenges thrown their way. Troubleshooting and cost management are also desirable skills sought after by clients.


Insurance companies are leaning on COOs and Business Managers for tactical and project related issues, specifically around people and processes, with clients preferring candidates with relevant and previous industry knowledge and those familiar with broader enterprise risk.


COOs and Business Managers of private banks must be able to contribute strategically to the business, from project management to security to compliance and risk management, and prove that their role will directly impact business performance.


We have seen solid demand for COOs and Business Managers with broad skill sets, capable of handling a range of internal business operations, from human resources to finance and technology. Strong investor relations, communications and external reporting abilities have been crucial to achieving success in these roles. Accountability for the compliance function has also become commonplace.


James Rushworth, Managing Director, Profile Search & Selection and Barbara Cochrane, Director, Profile Search & Selection


June 2017