TAG | Chinese Mandarin
With financial woes in the UK, Europe and US it’s not surprising that more and more investment banking professionals are looking to move to Hong Kong.
Who can blame them? The Chinese consumer sector is booming, appetite for raw materials, and technology seems unending, and Hong Kong is one of the primary markets for Chinese firms to raise capital through equity and increasingly debt financing.
It is the gateway for Chinese firms looking to acquire resources and technology from around the world, the access point for companies looking to invest in China and as of this month, Hong Kong has been named the world’s most developed financial market.
That said, whilst business is growing, the nature of the Chinese market means if you’re talking to clients and trying to originate business there, unless you can speak Mandarin you’re at a distinct disadvantage.
China investment banking coverage teams naturally look to employ Mandarin speakers and whilst it is less important within sector and M&A teams, increasingly Mandarin is “desired”.
This means if you’re an investment banker, and don’t have a Rolodex of clients to bring with you, your choices can be limited, usually to a Hong Kong or Asian execution team.
Secondary markets are a mixed bag, and again the issue comes down to coverage. Equity research functions have grown a lot in Hong Kong in recent years; many sector heads have international backgrounds, as initially there was a glut of local talent, but things are changing fast.
Competition is fierce, and with research teams looking to differentiate themselves, they are increasingly looking for the inside track to identify trends before they happen.
Contacts and dialogue with regulators and industry specialists in China can prove decisive in creating a competitive advantage and that is far easier for a Mandarin speaker. Accordingly, for junior to mid level hires, Mandarin is a must.
However, in trading, which depends on worldwide demand, English is still the common language, and this impacts the functions which support it.
Finance, IT, operations, market risk and change management do not require Mandarin, and there is certainly a strong market for people with international experience in these fields. If you work in any of these areas, you should be ok if you only speak English.
As a front office recruiter, fairly new to Hong Kong, Mandarin lessons are very much at the top of my list of New Year’s resolutions!