Hong Kong Market Briefing

Ben is a Managing Director with the Chapman Consulting Group and splits his time between Hong Kong and Singapore.

Consistent Activity and More Regional Roles

Overall there has been no slow down in the Hong Kong HR market over the last three months — if anything, a number of roles that had been occupied and stable for five or more years have been changing. The cycle of 1-3 year tenure of many mid-senior HR leaders in the market has not changed, and the volume of Senior Regional roles in Hong Kong has remained active. Recent searches The Chapman Consulting Group has worked on have covered the professional services, media, retail, consumer goods and pharmaceuticals industries. It is interesting to note that we have seen a number of ‘new’ roles incorporating international or the Middle East into the traditional Asia Pacific geographies. Sourcing talent for these roles has often meant importing from outside of Hong Kong, and sometimes taking a risk on someone to step up and take on countries they haven’t encountered before.

Top Trends

Although we can never claim to have a 100% view of the trends, our team does have a broad view of the market, and the three that we agree stand out at the moment in Hong Kong are:

  1. A more buoyant and active top layer. The mid market is always moving, but the last three months seems to have been the most dynamic for APAC HR moves in Hong Kong this year so far;
  2. Only a handful of senior banking roles sourced externally in Hong Kong – more internal moves. Insurance and asset management most active externally.
  3. Higher % of COE searches than 2013 vs. HR Generalist roles. Reward and Talent/L&D particularly in demand.

Niche HR consulting firms grow

There has been an increase in the demand and availability of specialized consulting, especially from boutique companies and smaller niche players in Hong Kong. The less evolved day rate consulting market in HK, as compared to Australia or Europe (i.e. someone working as a contractor in an HRD or function leader role), has meant that these smaller firms often boast ex-corporate leaders with deep functional expertise.

Nick Avery, who was most recently the APAC Talent Head for Blackrock, is now working for Lyric Human Capital and is leveraging his experience working with a variety of clients in Hong Kong and the region. Nick shared “There’s a demand for hands-on corporate experience, blended with solid solutions, that can’t always be found in the market. I feel like my clients value the combination.” He also agreed that, “It’s not as common to see interim assignments in Hong Kong at the senior level — instead, having a firm like ours involved seems to be more and more common.”

C&B in Demand – and not just in Financial Services

Recent high profile Compensation & Benefits appointments in Hong Kong, with new functional leaders at Dairy Farm and Telstra, have highlighted that the Hong Kong market is building more variety in the senior echelons of reward. It is no longer dominated by financial services, as we’ve seen in the past.

Graham Tollit from the Chapman Consulting Group, who leads the firm’s C&B practice shared, “We are seeing C&B leaders moving to Hong Kong for roles, as well as being lured away – it is extremely competitive for in-market talent. The Reward Head is becoming more visible, and global leaders are keen to have someone who can represent the function and handle the complexity of Asia, and increasingly the Middle East and international.” He also highlighted a major talent gap, “We are seeing very few strong reward leaders emerging at the level down from a Director. The skill, cost to hire, and experience gap seems to be getting even wider in Hong Kong.”

Recent notable HR appointments in Hong Kong:

David Thomas joined Manulife as the HR Head for APAC, having previously been the Global Country HR Head for Standard Chartered.

Lynn Barry joined Telstra as the International HR Head in Hong Kong, having moved from Singapore. Lynn was previously the HR Head for APJ with Accenture.

Anders Fernstrom joined Herbert Smith Freehills as the Asia HR Director, and remained in Hong Kong where he has been for the last five years.

KC Lee joined Burberry as their new Head of APAC Reward and Recognition.


Oscar Fuchs is a Managing Director with the Chapman Consulting Group and is based in Hong Kong but splits his time between Japan, Korea and Taiwan.

Graham Tollitt is a Director with the Chapman Consulting Group and leads our Rewards practice for APAC, leading all reward searches in HK.

Ringo Lau is an Associate with the Chapman Consulting Group, based in Hong Kong. Ringo works across HR Leadership searches in Hong Kong, Korea and China.


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