Asia Pacific Banking HR Leaders Meet in Hong Kong

Hosted by: Bank of America Merrill Lynch

The Chapman Consulting Group held its Quarter Three Asia Pacific HR Banking Leaders market update at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch offices in Hong Kong on Tuesday 30th August. The session brought together sixteen Regional HR Leaders from major financial services organisations across Asia Pacific. The discussion covered; a) how Regional HR Leaders are attracting and retaining their HR talent, and b) their observations and thoughts on the last few months of global economic change and the impact for their HR organisation.

The session was led by Matthew Chapman, CEO of The Chapman Consulting Group and proved to be a great discussion with a lot of shared ideas. An initial introduction from Matthew Chapman highlighted the HR talent landscape in Asia. His observations were as follows:

  • Uncertainty in the economy is fuelling a slowdown for financial services HR hiring around the region – hiring freezes have again becoming the norm.
  • Changing geographic models, reporting lines and company focuses have brought greater uncertainty into HR structures.
  • Top talent in HR in some locations (particularly China) are experiencing salary rises of above 30% per annum, on average.
  • Sourcing strategies for HR talent have had to be broadened across Asia rather than just focusing on the HR talent in one country – companies not able to do this are severely restricting the talent options available.
  • HR pros are frequently ‘double hatting’ two or more roles, so that the HR department doesn’t have to add headcount (especially when the future is not clear).

General market observations from the HR Leader group included the following comments:

  • Larger amounts of time are being spent on control/ regulation and the HR group being ‘the policeman’ rather than a partner to the business.
  • European banks were slightly ahead of their US counterparts in having to react on the tightening of regulations. US banks are feeling this squeeze now.
  • Bonus pools will be down this year and retaining business and HR talent when this happens is already on the agenda.
  • In 2010 HR functions grew aggressively to match the surge in business growth but now hard questions are being asked on the cost implications of a larger HR support function. The HR structure needs to be flexible to shrink/ grow and deploy to support fluctuating business needs – HR Leaders are currently reassessing this configuration.

Regional HR Leaders felt a number of key points were linked to the HR talent pool. These included:

  1. The HR function is becoming more specialised to solve complex questions from the business and regulators. Finding the right HR talent is tough. Pressure points in specialist areas such as ER, C&B, project management and tax are constant.
  2. Competition for talent from multinational companies is strong – especially from locally owned companies who can offer employees more accountability and decision making opportunities than multinationals with a heavy reporting matrix.
  3. Technology is lagging behind the new demands on HR (especially on regulation, compliance and functionality in a fast changing environment) and this is a frustration for leaders trying to give HR talent the right tools to succeed.
  4. The HR top talent turnover has not been high in the last quarter however middle level talent remains hard to retain.
  5. One tool for retaining talent is to offer regional responsibility as well as a country role, particularly for talent unwilling or unable to relocate from their home country.
  6. In the competition for talent, non-banking financial services (insurance, asset management etc.) have benefitted from a more flexible and nimble HR model. They have attracted those who feel ‘boxed up’ in their role to do something with more breadth.


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Key Contributors:

Matthew Chapman


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Global Management

Matthew Chapman


Matthew (Matt) Chapman is the Founder of ChapmanCG. Matt oversees ChapmanCG’s future strategy, innovation and image across the globe. He also personally provides HR search and career counsel to HR leaders whose careers have grown alongside ChapmanCG — some of whom are now the biggest HR names in the world.

Matt has a Bachelor of Commerce in Accounting and Business Law from the University of New South Wales, Australia. He is a Singapore Citizen and divides his time between Asia Pacific, the Americas and EMEA.

Matt is a wellness, self-improvement and fitness addict. He has completed six desert, 250km ultra-marathons in Chile, China, Egypt, Antarctica, Namibia and Madagascar.

EA Registration Number: R1111550 Licence Number: 08S3543

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