Diversifying talents to help HK thrive as a financial hub

November 22, 2021 10:47
Photo: CGTN

Our world, amid the pandemic, is fraught with economic uncertainty, but our technology is advancing at an unprecedented pace. To secure Hong Kong’s status as an international financial centre, we must prioritise the cultivation of talents in financial technology (Fintech), environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues and cross-border wealth management. As digital banking becomes more prevalent and traditional banks brace themselves for a transformation, there is a growing demand for Fintech talents.

During this period of geopolitical turmoil, climate change and regulatory tightening, financial institutions are forced to address wider ESG issues. To expand their business, the banking sector closely monitors the trend in cross-border wealth management and the demand for investment products. All these factors lead to the recruitment of additional staff.

Hong Kong is establishing itself as an international centre of asset and risk management. Senior officials from the Central Government visited Hong Kong earlier to introduce the Outline of the 14th Five-Year Plan, which supports the interconnection of financial markets between Hong Kong and the Mainland, the development of offshore Renminbi business and the promotion of green finance in the Greater Bay Area. In the Policy Address delivered last month, the Chief Executive proposed to facilitate the two-way flow of cross-boundary RMB funds and develop offshore RMB products and tools, including the design of specific measures to enhance the demand for the issuance and trading of RMB securities and allow stocks traded via the southbound trading under Stock Connect to be denominated in RMB. In addition, the Hong Kong Government will deepen the cooperation between the Hong Kong Stock Exchange and the Guangzhou Futures Exchange in financial products related to carbon emission trading, strengthening Hong Kong’s position as a green and sustainable financial hub in the region. The Government will also encourage cross-border Fintech collaboration and establish with the Mainland a one-stop sandbox platform to support financial institutions and tech companies in Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao in their testing of cross-border Fintech applications.

In August, the Financial Services Development Council published a report on the careers of tomorrow, recognising that Fintech and ESG are the two main focuses for the future development of financial services. There is widespread optimism in the industry, but our existing practitioners will lose their competitive edge once they stop learning, innovating, or aspiring to be better. The report reminds financial institutions of the urgent need to accelerate digitisation. Fintech is not limited to programming, but can analyse product portfolio, data, business efficiency and accuracy, and it can even calculate returns to improve customer experience. Hong Kong must prepare its people for the careers of tomorrow.

Whilst the future of Hong Kong’s financial sector is full of possibilities, some challenges remain. The Deputy Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, Arthur Yuen, recently highlighted the shortage of talents in three areas of the banking industry: green finance, Fintech and the Greater Bay Area. He estimated that around 10% of the middle and back-office staff and 5% of front office staff, a total number of 8,000 to 9,000 employees, will need to retrain in the next three to five years, calling on the industry to step up its efforts in upskilling.

Against the background of economic restructuring and talent transformation on a global scale, Our Hong Kong Foundation released its research report in September, entitled “Preparing for the 21st Century Globally Competitive Workforce—Industry-led Standards of Applied Education and Lifelong Learning”. In that report, the Foundation suggested that to build a more competitive economy, Hong Kong should nurture new talents and its workforce should commit to lifelong learning. The Foundation believes that there is a mismatch between what our graduates can offer and what our society needs and recommended that the Qualifications Framework (QF) should align academic credentials with industry standards to ensure the training programmes offered by the institutes cater to the needs of the profession. The Government should set an example by incorporating these qualifications into recruitment, promotion, procurement and licensing requirements, formally recognising the value of applied qualifications.

We are pleased to see, as mentioned in the Policy Address, that our government is committed to the development of professional qualification standards under the QF for the Fintech sector, so as to provide a clearer and recognised professional development pathway for employers and practitioners in the industry, and it plans to add more finance-related courses to the list of reimbursable courses under the Continuing Education Fund to attract more talents to join the industry. We look forward to the timely introduction of a new module on Fintech under the QF for bankers and further exploration into a module on Green Finance. These initiatives will generate a diverse pool of financial talents within the next few years and ensure that the city can fully leverage its strengths in finance.

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Managing Editor at Our Hong Kong Foundation.