This article is from eFinancial careers and features Selene Ma, Head of Middle and Back Office - Financial Services.
Hong Kong is rapidly establishing itself as a fintech hub, driving demand for experienced financial services professionals to make the transition into technology driven platforms. A combination of government funding, a supportive regulatory environment and the city’s status as a financial centre is attracting a growing number of fintech companies.Meanwhile, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority is currently reviewing applications from 29 providers for the first ever virtual banking licences in the Special Administrative Region.
Selene Ma, manager of middle and back office - financial services, at recruitment firm ConnectedGroup, says: “It is a new milestone for the banking industry in Hong Kong. “These virtual institutions are actively hiring candidates from operational, client onboarding or compliance backgrounds.” She explained that fintechs are typically targeting professionals from traditional financial services firms due to the transferrable experience they possess. “This demand is tempting people who have had careers in more traditional financial services companies to make the switch. “I see this especially among mid to senior level candidates who have been in the industry for some time. They are keen to look for something that is new but not a complete change,” she says.
Ma says moving to a fintech is possible for people from a traditional financial services background, when they can leverage their existing skillset and knowledge, particularly as fintechs begin to fall under similar regulatory scrutiny. But she cautions that fintechs want more than just financial sector experience, explaining that companies are also looking for people with the right attitude. “The message from hiring managers and senior people in fintech companies is that candidates must be technology savvy and open minded. “Being able to think creatively is also very desirable and in smaller but fast growing organisations, adaptability and flexibility are key,” she says.
Personality plays a big role in Ma’s approach to matching clients with the right employers across the whole financial services sector, and she believes understanding someone’s mindset is key to helping them find the best fit employer. “Apart from the technical skillset, my approach is to understand the candidate’s personal drivers because I think the culture of a workplace and also the chemistry with the management are important. “Finding the right platform for candidates is key to helping them progress in their careers.” Ma describes herself as an outgoing, people person with a genuine interest in helping people succeed which she thinks makes her well equipped to succeed in her role. “I like meeting people and understanding what they do, and where they want to go. I like becoming part of their story by helping them achieve their goals.”
She points out that in order to help clients’ recruit the best talent, it is key to understand what they want and to really listen to them, in order to provide a solution that addresses their needs. “It is important to ensure both parties are looked after and have positive outcomes – it is not viable to simply represent the company because they pay the invoice. “We stand out from other agencies due to the depth of capability of our people and because our mission is to be remembered for exceeding expectations for both clients and candidates,” she says.
ConnectedGroup was founded in Hong Kong more than 20 years ago. In that time, it has grown from a small business to a large-scale boutique firm. It is a full service consultancy, covering all sectors from financial services and banking, to finance, accounting and IT, through to retail, supply chain, legal and property. A unique aspect of the company is that it is a strong supporter of the local not-for-profit ecosystem. As well as offering pro-bono services to some local charities, it is also the founder of Recruit4Good, a not-for-profit initiative in itself that provides a job board and career portal for the charitable sector at zero cost.
Ma thinks ConnectedGroup is an exceptional place to work: “We are supported from the top down to ensure we are always learning and being challenged and encouraged. “We have a great management team and our managing director is very supportive and believes in creating an environment where staff feel highly valued. This helps differentiate us from other recruitment agencies,” she says.
Ma has more than a decade of experience in the recruitment sector and has worked for ConnectedGroup for over four years. She started her career at a boutique recruitment firm, before joining a larger player in 2007 as a candidate manager on its banking team. “I looked after front office there and switched to middle and back office later on.” She remembers working through the global financial crisis, and the impact it had on the financial services sector. “It gave me good experience in building a reputation and credibility in a bad market. Clients remember you when the market picks up. I learned a lot during this time,” she says.
That time is a far cry from the current buoyant state of the Hong Kong financial sector. Ma says demand is currently high for candidates to fill corporate governance and regulatory roles, particularly in the asset management sector, while companies are also recruiting for revenue generating positions, such as institutional sales or relationship managers. “A lot of financial institutions are not just hiring for replacement headcount but also for additional headcount as well. The market is in a robust mode,” she says.