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China's consumer banks left high and dry

With investment banks sucking up all the talent, China's retail banks are struggling to find staff.

Consumer banking in China is facing an acute shortage of suitable people, according to Matthew Maslin, managing partner of Odgers Ray & Berndtson in Shanghai.

"Following the arrival of the foreign banks in China, the sector is growing rapidly. In addition, consumer banking needs scale. That means that, in terms of sheer numbers, of all sectors of the financial services industry, the consumer banking sector is facing the tightest market," says Maslin.

Competition for talent is exacerbated by the fact that it's only this year that foreign banks have been allowed to provide local currency banking services to Chinese customers.

HSBC recently complained about difficulties finding staff in China - the bank expects to hire a thousand people in the country this year, according to the Financial Times. Citigroup reportedly plans to hire a similar number.

Executives with expertise running credit card operations, premium banking services, insurance and other common facets of retail banking are all in high demand.

As for remuneration, Maslin says it's impossible to give precise figures. "Because the market is relatively undeveloped in China, there is less standardisation, so packages can vary greatly," he says.

On top of a lack of transparency and reliable data, there are numerous gradations amongst employees: foreigners, Chinese returnees and local Chinese are all on different scales.

However, candidates melding local market expertise and industry knowledge will always be in demand - local or non-local. Blanket salaries are hard to pin down, but US$200k to US$400k for a director-level position is probably not too far off the mark.

Local banks are also offering more money - but many components of local remuneration packages tend to be in kind. So travel expenses and living allowances may be very generous, but the cash component may be smaller.

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