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Banks in the SAR should strengthen their talent development immediately and leverage technologies to support employees to upskill and reskill, says Carrie Leung, CEO, The Hong Kong Institute of Bankers (HKIB).

Hong Kong has a wealth of talent and infrastructure, which will support its push to be a world leader in the fintech industry. These were the words of top business leaders at the Global Financial Leaders' Investment Summit, held in Hong Kong last November, with several leaders also noting the city is home to high-quality talent not seen anywhere else.

As such, Hong Kong has been taking more active and aggressive efforts to vie for financial companies and talent to restore the exodus of high-quality talent lost during the pandemic.

Attracting financial industry talent is a major initiative announced by the Chief Executive John Lee in his maiden 2022 Policy Address to enhance Hong Kong’s competitiveness as an international financial centre. The new policy direction has been well-received across different sectors in Hong Kong in hopes of seizing any new opportunities arising from the pandemic in the digital banking era powered by financial technology (fintech).

There is a big local demand for professional training in fintech, as reflected in the latest Hong Kong Institute of Bankers’ (HKIB) Talent Development Survey 2022, which aims to understand the latest trends in talent development and the most pressing professional training needs in the banking industry.

Our survey, which interviewed over 900 practitioners starting from mid-May 2022 for eight weeks, revealed some 92% of the respondents believe their banks have made progress in their digital transformation over the past 12 months, with 36% saying this progress has been significant.

However, lack of technological competence is considered by most as the top challenge for local practitioners undergoing digital transformation. It is revealed that the most in-demand skill related to technology and data is ‘artificial intelligence and big data’, while more senior managers believe regulation technology (Regtech), adopted by nearly one-third of respondents, is useful in the fintech training programme.

To address such needs, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) together with HKIB launched the Enhanced Competency Framework – Fintech (ECF – Fintech), one of the fintech professional qualifications recognised by the Qualifications Framework. Banks that sponsor successful ECF-Fintech qualification holders can apply for a subsidy under the Pilot Scheme on Training Subsidy for Fintech Practitioners.

The ‘Certified Banker’ programme has been revamped into a well-recognised professional qualification and systematic training course, further addressing the possible talent gaps that have emerged from business innovation and transformation.

The hunt for fintech talent was evident in another survey conducted by The University of Hong Kong, Cyberport and the Hong Kong Productivity Council, which found about 57% of Hong Kong's firms are actively scouting for fintech professionals. Despite the market demand, the gap in salary expectations was found to be the main reason for the fintech talent crunch.

As we all notice in the market nowadays, new job roles and required skills in the next generation of banking continue to evolve. To succeed, banks should strengthen their talent development immediately across the front, middle and back offices, commit to investment in human resources, and leverage technologies to support employees to upskill and reskill.

Apart from tech skills, banking practitioners also identify ‘green and sustainable finance skills’ and ‘up-to-date banking knowledge and skills’ as their skill gaps.

Reducing carbon footprint has become an important agenda in the corporate world. That is also why the HKMA has embedded climate risk in banking supervision to address the increasing concerns about environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues.

It is encouraging that more practitioners notice their respective employers have increased their focus on ESG, with nearly two-thirds believe acquiring ESG knowledge would be helpful to their career development, and even more are convinced that ESG is an integral part of skills development for banking practitioners.

The most in-demand ESG skill is undoubtedly climate-related financial risk assessment and management because the knowledge of green finance and sustainable development has become so important that many hope to obtain relevant professional qualifications through training courses.

In the same light, ‘regulatory and compliance skills’ and ‘Greater Bay Area and cross-border knowledge’ are the top two most in-demand skills for local practitioners, demonstrating that industry practitioners are generally optimistic about the prospect of developing a career in the Guangdong–Hong Kong–Macao Greater Bay Area (GBA) although the borders were closed for almost three years.

Our survey showed for those who have started to develop a career in the GBA, nearly half were promoted or received a salary increase. Among them, they hope the mutual cross-border recognition of professional qualifications would encourage more people to develop their careers in the GBA.

We believe Hong Kong’s talent has a natural advantage to the development of the GBA. Wooing financial talent to Hong Kong and strengthening the talent pools in the GBA is the winning formula in the years to come. Our challenge is to equip them with relevant skills training and professional qualification courses for talent from all over the world who plan to join the local banking industry.

At the same time, we must also focus on nurturing Hong Kong's financial talent, and continue to support in their skills transformation and upgrading through enhanced collaboration among the local banking industry.


Image / Provided (Author: Carrie Leung, Chief Executive Officer of The Hong Kong Institute of Bankers)

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