Asia-Pacific finance job market hots up, pay jumps

HONG KONG, June 23 Wed Jun 23, 2010 7:30am EDT

HONG KONG, June 23 (Reuters) - Large numbers of finance professionals in Hong Kong have seen their pay jump between 20 and 40 percent in the past six months as competition for top talent heats up, a study showed on Wednesday.

Average salaries across the Asia-Pacific financial sector, which is the region's highest paymaster, have risen or remained resilient in 2009/10 compared with the previous year, and expectations for higher pay are on the rise.

The annual 2010/2011 salary guide released by Robert Half International (RHI.N) surveyed about 3,500 finance professionals in the region.

"It is the first salary increase since the downturn of the job market," Andrew Morris, a director of Robert Half Hong Kong, told a media briefing.

He said most financial services professional such as investment bankers, retail bankers and hedge fund managers expect their annual bonuses to jump this year.

"The bonuses are unlikely to match the pre-crisis level but the expectations in some cases are that it could be as high as six months salary," he added.

The hot Asia-Pacific job market means two of every three employers surveyed were anxious about losing their best talent.

"Employers need to get onto the front foot and act fast to retain top performers," Morris added.

He said most finance professionals in Hong Kong got a bonus in 2009 despite the economic downturn, and over 80 percent expect that they can get a bonus payout this year as well.

Many Wall Street banks and other investment firms have their Asian head offices in Hong Kong, the region's financial hub.

"Especially when the recession is short in Hong Kong compared to other countries, people's expectations are high. They think they can earn 12 months bonus again," Morris said.

Almost half of Hong Kong employees are not happy with their salaries and more than half believe they should switch jobs to get better pay.

Experts in accounting, finance, compliance, operational support and audit were in special demand, the survey revealed. (Editing by Denny Thomas and Michael Shields)

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