When I talked to friends from the banking sector lately, they were full of excitement when it came to the outlook for the financial industry. Everyone was eagerly gearing up for the expansion of their businesses in order to capture the enormous opportunities brought about by the three major “growth engines” – fintech, green finance and the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (GBA). Obviously, business expansion cannot be done without sufficient talent support. And some bankers indicated that it was not easy to find the right talent. On the other hand, some parents have been worried about their children who just graduated from university and ran into a brick wall when searching for a job. This phenomenon of job mismatch highlights the importance of growing talent for the financial industry. Let me take this opportunity to share with you the HKMA’s strategy and key areas of work on talent development, and the thinking behind.
Attracting the younger generation to the banking industry
The financial industry is one of the most important economic pillars in Hong Kong. Currently, it has a workforce of more than 270,000, with around 100,000 in banking. Over the past decade, the financial industry had created an average of more than 5,000 new posts each year. According to a study entitled “Capacity Building for Future Banking 2021-2025” issued jointly by the HKMA, the Hong Kong Association of Banks and the Hong Kong Institute of Bankers (HKIB) in mid-2020, the demand for talent will only keep rising in order to support banks’ business development and expansion plans in the coming years. And the talent gap in the fields of fintech, green finance and GBA wealth management is expected to be more pronounced.
To narrow the talent gap, it is necessary to have an effective talent development strategy. While it is important to attract elites from around the world, we firmly believe it is even more crucial to cultivate our own talent. After all, the shortage of talent is a global issue. To expand the local talent pool, our younger generation will be an important source. For this reason, the HKMA embarked on a new talent development strategy in September this year. One of the focal points of this strategy is to better connect young people to the banking sector, deepening their understanding of the latest developments and career prospects in the industry so as to attract more young talent to come on board.
The HKMA, in collaboration with the banking industry and the HKIB, held a total of 11 career talks in different universities during September to November. The talks attracted nearly 800 undergraduates from different disciplines. Another new initiative is the Future Banking Bridging Programme, which is free and aims to help university students gain practical knowledge in the hottest areas of banking and better equip them for a banking career in the future. An overwhelming response was received from students. So great was the demand that we had to increase the number of places substantially from the original target of 50 to about 220.
A diversity of roles in banking
Are banking jobs all dull and boring? Can non-business graduates get into the banking industry? These may be the questions many students have in mind. Thanks to the staunch support of banks, we have invited young bankers to our events to share with their juniors what a banking job was like on the ground and what skill sets were essential. Quite a few of these bankers did not have a business background and yet have been able to make a successful career out of banking. A common thread in their sharing was that the banking industry was not exclusive to business graduates. In fact, a variety of roles are available in a bank’s front, middle and back office operations that are suitable for graduates of different disciplines, personalities and aspirations, for long-term career development. Moreover, with banks accelerating the pace of digital transformation and putting more emphasis on green and sustainable finance, more types of specialist jobs have been created, such as artificial intelligence engineers, data analysts and climate risk management professionals. As banks look for candidates to fill these posts, graduates majoring in electronic engineering, fintech, environmental science and related subjects might even be in greater demand.
Our speakers also talked about why they chose banking as a career. Some of their stories are quite interesting. For instance, we had a young banker who once dreamed of becoming an e-sports player, but then transformed himself into a payment system coding engineer in the fintech department of a bank. He has been very interested in the design and programming of electronic games since he was small. After taking the relevant technology courses, he realised that the financial industry also had roles which suited his interest. And so he ended up as a bank’s coding engineer, turning his hobby into a vocation by making use of his creativity and talent to develop different computer programs.
Nowadays, the younger generation is in general more concerned about such issues as environmental protection and sustainable development. One of the participants in our Bridging Programme, a girl born after the new millennium, aspired to become a geologist in order to contribute to a better planet. Our Programme helped her understand the important role played by finance in allocating social resources. Through prioritising funds to economic activities that promote sustainable development, banks can also have a hand in furthering the cause of environmental protection.
As someone who has been there, done that, I certainly understand that the choice of career is a major decision in life. One has to seek and listen to more views before deciding on a suitable career. To help the young along, the HKMA will organise more promotional events so that university students can have a direct dialogue with bankers to deepen their understanding of the industry. We will also extend these activities to senior secondary school students. Discussions are now under way with the Education Bureau on organising a banking seminar for senior secondary school students as well as their parents and teachers in mid-2022, such that when the students are guided through their life planning in school, they will get a better idea of banking career prospects and be more ready to select appropriate university programmes.
Providing exposure to a real bank setting
Our mission to connect the young with the banking industry does not end there. In fact, the most direct approach is to let them work as interns side by side with industry practitioners in a bank. It is with this in mind that the HKMA and the industry have jointly launched the Banking Talent Programme, Fintech Career Accelerator Scheme and Pilot Apprenticeship Programme for Private Wealth Management to provide undergraduates with internship opportunities in various fields. These programmes allow students to gain hands-on experience on top of the theoretical knowledge acquired in the classroom, thus helping them build an early foundation in work skills before pursuing a banking career. About 2,000 students have participated in these programmes so far.
In addition to undergraduate internships, the HKMA piloted the Industry Project Masters Network scheme in September this year for around 20 fintech master’s degree students to take part in real-life projects of the Hong Kong Applied Science and Technology Research Institute and three participating banks. We aim to gradually expand the scheme to cover more banks, universities and students in the future.
A dual-pronged approach to capacity building
While cultivating young people is important to the future of the banking industry, the HKMA also attaches great importance to the training needs of existing banking practitioners. In view of the rapid development of the banking sector in recent years, especially the enormous opportunities created by the three “growth engines”, the HKMA and the industry are joining hands to upskill the existing workforce to ensure they can keep pace with the needs of the new era.
Earlier this month, the HKMA rolled out a new Fintech module under the Enhanced Competency Framework (ECF) for banking practitioners. The relevant professional certification courses will be launched in the coming months, covering practical skill sets including fintech application, artificial intelligence, big data, blockchain technology and regulatory technology, to enhance the professional competence of fintech practitioners. As a further step to cater for the needs of future banking, we have also commenced the preparatory work for developing another new module, Green and Sustainable Finance, under the ECF.
It takes perseverance to grow talent
Capacity building and talent development require perseverance and dedication, as well as support and cooperation from all parties concerned. The HKMA has been in close collaboration with different parties, encouraging banks to invest more in talent development, universities to incorporate emerging hot topics in their programme curricula, and training institutes to launch more highly needed professional training courses. Financial talent is crucial to the future development of Hong Kong as an international financial centre. We will work hand in hand with all stakeholders with a view to achieving concrete results in the next three to five years.
Hong Kong Monetary Authority
15 December 2021
I meet with the participating students of the Future Banking Bridging Programme during their visit to the HKMA.