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HK graduates ‘lack skills’ in solving live problems in Financial Markets

HK graduates ‘lack skills’ in solving live problems in Financial Markets

Trainers and headhunters say locals smart and good in math but not able to think on their feet

Hong Kong graduates are smart and good in mathematics but they lack practical experience as traders or compliance officers, and this has led the city to lose out to New York and London, according to training agencies and headhunters.

Tariq Dennison, a co-founder of GFM Group, which provides training and research for bonds and other financial products, said Hong Kong’s fresh graduates had good potential but were not perceived being as prepared or confident in “thinking on their feet” in real trading floor situations.

“We started the company to provide training for the financial markets because we found the level of financial sophistication and expertise of many professionals in places like New York and London was still years ahead of many examples we saw in Hong Kong,” Dennison said.

“Many Hong Kong students are very bright and smart and they are particularly good in math and financial theory, which would be good foundations for them to work in the financial sector. Their major problem is their readiness to solve practical problems found on real trading desks.”

He said the government could give students a leg up on their Wall Street and London City counterparts by sponsoring them to take programmes where they could practise how to solve real problems faced by bond traders, portfolio managers and risk analysts.

A Financial Services Development Council report showed Hong Kong banks, brokers and insurers planned to hire up to 15 per cent more staff every year in the next few years. However, Hong Kong graduates might lose out to the foreigners and mainlanders.

Joe Ngai, a convenor of the FSDC’s human capital committee, said there was a mismatch between company and employee expectations, with employers wanting people in the back office working in compliance, risk management and operations but graduates lacking interest in such jobs.

“Many graduates want to join investment banks to make mega deals,” Ngai said. “They should adjust such attitude as many bank office jobs are high-growth areas and provide good career prospects.

“Nowadays, back office and operational jobs are not about photocopying documents but are sophisticated.

“Some back office jobs may pay more than the front desks, while they have less chance to be laid off as these talents are very much in demand.”

Neil Clark, an Asia-Pacific director at eFinancialCareers, the online careers website, said Hong Kong graduates faced heated competition from mainlanders and expatriates but many Hong Kong financial firms preferred to hire local graduates because they understood the local market and culture.

“The majority of financial firms will continue to hire in Hong Kong this year and there are clear skill shortages in most areas, especially risk and compliance,” Clark said. “Hong Kong graduates who have strong language skills, can demonstrate sound financial knowledge and have internship experience will be in an excellent position to join the financial services industry.”

Hong Kong Securities Association chairman Jeffrey Chan Lap-tak said the stocks scheme that connected the Shanghai and Hong Kong share markets had boosted turnover and increase the need for research analysts.

“If possible, many local brokers would like to hire local graduates as they know about the local markets and regulation,” Chan said. “But for investment banks that eye mainland deals, they may prefer to hire mainland graduates who have the mainland connections and tend not to be too demanding on remuneration.”

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