These are the Asian banking jobs where you must speak Mandarin
Mandarin is fast becoming the de facto language in Hong Kong’s financial services industry and monolingual bankers who can only speak English or Cantonese are being frozen out of the job market.
But which sectors demand the language more than others? Do you really need Mandarin if you’re not in a client-facing role targeting mainland China? We examined 15 of the top sectors on eFinancialCareers and worked out the proportion demanding knowledge of Mandarin.
The results suggest that you’re increasingly unlikely to get a front office investment banking job in Hong Kong unless you speak Mandarin. Over half (53%) of M&A jobs now require Mandarin, as investment bankers focus on helping expansionist mainland private companies make overseas acquisitions.
This proportion only looks like getting bigger. Junior IBD analysts we spoke to last month say the percentage of Mandarin speakers among new graduate intakes in Hong Kong is even higher at between 60% and 80% and that mainlanders are being recruited at the expense of Cantonese-speaking Hongkongers.
Mandarin is also a useful skill in Hong Kong’s booming corporate banking and private banking sectors, where it’s needed in 43% and 36% of jobs in our database. Financial markets liberalisation and the rapid growth of private wealth in China are driving demand for Mandarin-speaking private bankers in Hong Kong, a city where rich Chinese typically park a large proportion of their assets.
Traders can’t escape the onslaught of Mandarin either – 41% of trading job vacancies demand candidates with Mandarin skills. Traders in Hong Kong have been increasingly interacting with their mainland counterparts since the launch of Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect in November. The Chinese government has also proposed a similar link between the Hong Kong and Shenzhen exchanges.
If you don’t work in the front office you can (just about) get away without Mandarin. Most compliance and legal roles, for example, primarily require you to interact with local regulators about Hong Kong and global – not mainland – regulations. Mandarin speakers are only needed for 17% of compliance jobs in Hong Kong, a similar figure to risk (18%). Banks will view this as a blessing as both sectors are suffering from chronic skill shortages.
Speaking Mandarin is beneficial in about a quarter of accounting and operations jobs (22% and 23% respectively) in Hong Kong, partly reflecting the growth of mainland banks in the city, who use the language for internal communication.
Despite the rapid growth of hedge funds in Asia last year, the industry is still an emerging part of the Hong Kong finance sector and is still emphasising technical and investment skills over language capabilities – only 16% of jobs require Mandarin.