Opinion

George Chen

The season of hiring in China

George Chen
Nov 29, 2010 06:10 UTC

HSBC/ HSBC/The season of hiring in China By George Chen The opinions expressed are the author’s own. As we enter the last few weeks of 2010, we’re gladdened to hear news of increased hiring in Asia, in particular in China – suggesting a promising business outlook for the coming year. Otherwise, why bother hiring? On November 24, Barclays Wealth, a unit of British banking giant Barclays, outlined an ambitious expansion plan to double the number of private bankers in Asia and quadruple its assets under management in the region over the next four years. In addition, Barclays is going to set up a booking centre in Hong Kong to get even closer to its top-end China clients. This is not Barclays’ first attempt to grab talent from rivals this year. Its aggressive hiring plan has already raised tensions with Morgan Stanley in the equities, foreign exchange trading and investment banking arenas. Just few months ago, Barclays successfully lobbied a number of China-focused M&A bankers in Asia to defect from Morgan Stanley. Such moves, especially for a group of people rather than one or two in few months, caused quite a buzz in Hong Kong’s financial community at the time. This time, Barclays wants to snag more private banking and asset management professionals. Who should be watching out? In Asia, smaller banks such as Standard Chartered and DBS Group are furiously expanding, with more wealth likely to be generated in the region powered by the economies of China, India and Indonesia. Even market leader HSBC is trying hard to expand its private banking team to further consolidate its position in Asia. Have you seen the hiring ads posted all over Hong Kong? These banks are usually believed to offer less competitive compensation than rivals such as Barclays and Goldman Sachs, which are known for more generous payrolls, but also for longer working hours and higher pressure in the office. No wonder HSBC just few weeks ago decided to give senior staff in Asia a huge incentive boost, raising salaries by as much as double. At the end of the day it’s up to you, Mr. or Ms. Talent — what do you really want? More money? Or a more comfortable working environment? Remember the old saying: you cannot have your cake and eat it. And how can we forget Citibank, once the world’s largest financial services provider? The U.S. banking giant is now apparently paying more attentions to the fast growing rich Chinese customers and bigger Chinese corporate. The bank wants to double personnel in China to 10,000 over three years, according to a report by Japan’s business daily Nikkei on November 25. When the news about Citibank’s hiring plan in China came out, Chinese netizens showed some doubts about it. They asked online if Citibank can afford competitive compensations in China like what they offer Citi staff in the West. To work for a foreign bank in China is no longer something a young graduate may be really proud of. In terms of payroll, you should not be surprised to see a junior clerk at Bank of China in Shanghai earns roughly 5,000 yuan (750 U.S. dollar) per month, even more than what his peer can get at Standard Chartered in the country’s financial hub. On the other hand, it’s certainly a good thing to see the financial world recovering. Nobody wants to see another year of market panic in 2011. However, let’s hope the pace of expansion is a reasonable one. You get more staff and you focus on better service quality better, right? Oops! To be honest, I haven’t received a call from my HSBC account manager for almost a year, and I only learned from the online banking system that my account manager has changed twice in the past six months. Of course, I’m just one of many among its small clients in Hong Kong.

George Chen is a Reuters editor and columnBy George Chen

By George Chen

By George Chen
The opinions expressed are the author’s own.

As we enter the last few weeks of 2010, we’re gladdened to hear news of increased hiring in Asia, in particular in China – suggesting a promising business outlook for the coming year. Otherwise, why bother hiring?

On November 24, Barclays Wealth, a unit of British banking giant Barclays, outlined an ambitious expansion plan to double the number of private bankers in Asia and quadruple its assets under management in the region over the next four years. In addition, Barclays is going to set up a booking center in Hong Kong to get even closer to its top-end China clients.

This is not Barclays’ first attempt to grab talent from rivals this year. Its aggressive hiring plan has already raised tensions with Morgan Stanley in the equities, foreign exchange trading and investment banking arenas.

Just a few months ago, Barclays successfully lobbied a number of China-focused M&A bankers in Asia to defect from Morgan Stanley. Such moves, especially for a group of people rather than one or two over a few months, caused quite a buzz in Hong Kong’s financial community at the time. This time, Barclays wants to snag more private banking and asset management professionals. Who should be watching out?

The “hot money” war in China

George Chen
Nov 19, 2010 06:52 UTC

MARKETS-CHINA/YUAN

By George Chen
The opinions expressed are the author’s own.

“Hot money” is the hot discussion among Chinese officials, investors and the media these days. The “hotter” the fund flows are, the more risk there is to China’s financial system, many officials believe. Naturally, “hot money” has become a top enemy of the central bank, just like inflation.

Almost the same story took place about five years ago, just ahead of China’s landmark yuan revaluation in July 2005. At the time, we saw media reports about “hot money” every day, but they often disagreed about the amount of “hot money” that China had and could afford.

Some official media preferred to give a vague yuan figure in the tens of billions. I remember a central banker in Guangzhou once disclosed a more specific number and then received an immediate warning from his boss in Beijing. Hot money — how hot? That’s pretty much considered another state secret.

In Shanghai, prices fly high

George Chen
Nov 18, 2010 03:11 UTC

H&M-CHINA/

By George Chen
The opinions expressed are the author’s own.

The other day one of my colleagues in Shanghai was happy to see her favorite fashion brand, Gap, finally arrived in China. That same day, November 11, China announced that inflation rose to a more than two-year high of 4.4 percent. It is no wonder then that, these days, Chinese people are complaining that almost everything is becoming more and more expensive including, of course, fashion.

Just a couple of years ago, my friends in Shanghai told me that when they go shopping, they might spend several hundred yuan on average buying quite a few items including jeans, a coat and some cosmetics. Now? 1,000 yuan, (about $150) is almost nothing — it’s easy to spend more than you ever expected, and faster.

A decent dinner in Shanghai’s popular nightlife area, Xintiandi, two movie tickets (nearly 100 yuan per person), T-shirts, perhaps some cosmetics, and taxi fares will eat up about 1,000 yuan.

GE’s Immelt loves China after all

George Chen
Nov 10, 2010 19:57 UTC

MANUFACTURING CHINA GE

By George Chen
The opinions expressed are his own.

During a visit to Beijing on Tuesday, General Electric’s chief executive, Jeffrey Immelt, announced that GE would invest more than $2 billion to expand the company’s research and development in China.

The largest U.S. conglomerate, GE will spend $500 million on research and development and more than $1.5 billion on technology and financial services joint ventures.

This announcement comes from the same man who, in July, revealed his doubts on the outlook for foreign businesses in China. Immelt and many of his peers in the technology sector, such as Google and Microsoft, are concerned about China’s ambition to acquire foreign technology, to further develop it and their use of it to compete against foreign companies such as GE in the global market.

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