DigFin asked Warwick Pearmund, director of Madison Pearl’s Hong Kong office, to tell us about the jobs outlook for fintech in 2023.
As we reach the end of 2022, I don’t think that there are many of us in Hong Kong who will not be glad to see that back of it. The last three years have been rough on all of us for any number of reasons, not least the travel and social restrictions, and we must be hoping for a better year ahead.
Looking at fintech and the broader technology sector we can sum up 2022 with “plenty of tech jobs, not enough talent”.
As a technology recruiter my problem has not been finding work but finding suitably qualified people to fill positions. There has always been a supply-and-demand imbalance in tech talent in Hong Kong but this has been exacerbated by Covid-19 and the government’s social and travel restrictions. People, local and foreign alike, have left the city for pastures new and Hong Kong has become less attractive as a destination to live and work.
I have every reason to be more optimistic for 2023 and this is borne out in my conversations with clients, who range across financial services and insurance, management consulting, technology and multinational corporations. The demand is there, particularly as companies eye the significant opportunities presented by the Greater Bay Area project. Can we find the supply, and where will that be?
It’s all about the Ds
There are definite themes in global technology hiring that Hong Kong not only shares in but, in at least one case, can be at the forefront of:
- Digital transformation
- Digital assets
Asia has taken the lead in digital transformation, particularly across financial services, and Hong Kong and China have played a major part in that. Here in Hong Kong the launch of the virtual banks in 2020 onwards has transformed personal finance and are paving the way for digitalisation of others services, particularly insurance. Areas in which companies are increasing spend include:
- The shift to virtual interaction
- Business process automation
- Predictive analytics
- Cloud technology
- Cyber security
‘Data’ is a bit of a catch-all but it is a field in which no company can afford to be left behind. Any business transformation strategy, whether tech-heavy or not, must encompass data as an integral part of change.
No longer just an analytics tool, data strategies now incorporate predictive models and mapping tools to identify and exploit potential customer bases in both B2B and B2C environments. Omni-channel marketing targets highly specific audience segments in ways that are likely to grab audience attention and can not only be deployed en masse, but are so adaptive that the message can be tailored to individual residential buildings based upon demographic data.
- Read more:
- Carmen Wee’s outlook for asset managers in 2023
- Varun Mittal’s six predictions for 2023
- DigFin’s top fintech stories from a troublesome 2022
This presents opportunities not only for data scientists, engineers, analysts and architects who can analyse, manipulate and visualise data as well as those who can turn the numbers into actionable insights via directed marketing channels, both traditional and digital. UI/UX designers, digital marketers and content creators all have roles to play and remain very much in demand.
With great power, though, comes great responsibility and there has been a noticeable increase over the last two years for data governance and privacy professionals. This is a discipline where legal skills are as in-demand as tech-awareness. International businesses in Hong Kong not only have to contend with the local PDPO rules but Chinese PIPL, European GDPR and, increasingly as they grow as a financial centre, the UAE’s PDPL.
In a market characterised by turbulence, Hong Kong has had its ups and downs as the government and the regulators have flip-flopped on how the industry can function here. Following the wild-west early days of crypto-currency exchanges, through regulatory sandboxes, a move to institutional trading only and, most recent, government proclamations about licensing retail-facing service providers, the future for the digital assets looks very bright for Hong Kong and is a definite growth area for 2023.
The government has indicated its willingness to bring digital assets into the regulatory fold and has highlighted the benefits that blockchain technology, distributed ledgers, and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) could bring to the financial industry. We have just seen the launch of a digital ETF with more to come, while regulators hammer out trading rules aimed at retail investors.
The demand for coders with blockchain experience and fluency in C++, Python, Java, Solidity, Golang and Rust will continue. These are all skills that are in short supply in Hong Kong and while fully-remote working is prevalent across the blockchain industry there is a need for more boots on the ground. The opening of the borders, both internationally and with the mainland, should help attract newcomers to the city.
But, as is often the case with emerging technologies, it is the younger cohort that adapt to new skillsets, and this is one area where Hong Kong still has serious local problem.
Hong Kong’ universities still don’t produce enough technology graduates, and this is a major driver of skills shortages and one that certainly needs to be addressed. Traditional resistance among parents to encourage their children into non-professional roles is slowly changing; university students show more interest in joining tech firms and start-ups. However, there is still a lack of understanding on how this can be achieved, particularly among non-technical graduates who have an interest in the space.
Professor Tam Kar-yin, dean of the business administration school of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, says college students interested in fintech must equip themselves.First, students need financial knowledge. Second, coding. Third, statistics and some basic maths to work with large data sets.
For graduates considering job options, along with salary and corporate reputation, “young people hope to have more room for development in the workplace and to gain a sense of identity”. And employers need to take work-life balance seriously for new recruits.
Hong Kong’s borders are open, life is returning to the streets, people are returning and this is just the beginning. 2023 will be an exciting year of growth and the beginning of a new chapter in our history. With the advent of the Greater Bay Area, we will not be “just another Chinese city” but the international gateway to a major global market. Hong Kong needs to foster the skills, training and education to make the most of this opportunity.