Hong Kong bankers unhappy despite bigger bonuses

The glut of firms expanding their operations in Hong Kong is driving salaries up, but not enough to keep bankers happy.
Hong Kong, bonus capital
Hong Kong, bonus capital

Bankers in Hong Kong earned 25% bigger bonuses for 2010, but one-in-three say they are dissatisfied with their deal and almost half are planning to leave this year, according to a global bonus survey by eFinancial Careers.

Not counting new arrivals, 56% of finance professionals based in Hong Kong got bigger bonuses in 2010 than in 2009, and just 16% got less. Needless to say, most who earned more were satisfied and most who earned less were dissatisfied. But 16% of those who got a bigger bonus were also dissatisfied and, regardless of satisfaction, 36% were expecting more.

Even so, the city’s professionals did better than their counterparts in Singapore and Australia, who won an average 13% hike in their bonus cheques — roughly half the Hong Kong increase. So why are they are unhappy? Because they can afford to be, thanks to a glut of new jobs as financial firms set their sights on winning a bigger slice of business from China.

“Widespread bonus dissatisfaction amongst Hong Kong professionals will likely fuel post-bonus turnover across the city’s finance industry, a sector that is already experiencing significant talent shortage as companies look to expand,” said George McFerran, head of Asia-Pacific at eFinancialCareers, in a statement.

The churn will be wide ranging, including wealth management and investment banking, equities, fund management and risk management, according to McFerran.

“Employee retention is key in the current climate as people who were reluctant to move during the financial crisis look for new career opportunities,” he added. “Companies need to gear up their retention efforts and invest in their employees’ career development in order to prevent star performers from jumping ship.”

Compared to the rest of the world, the size of bonus increases in Hong Kong for 2010 show that firms are already doing this. But the survey shows that bankers in the city clearly feel they deserve more. Their counterparts in the UK got just 5% more in their bonus package than in 2009 and those in the US got 5% less. But satisfaction is lowest in Hong Kong.

Overall, three-quarters of Hong Kong professionals earned more in 2010, including salary and bonus.

¬ Haymarket Media Limited. All rights reserved.