Mandarin 'vital' for expat banking jobs in Singapore

British bankers looking to move to Asia without possessing the ability to speak Mandarin will be up against stern competition for jobs, new research has found.
Astbury Marsden, a leading financial services recruitment firm, reported that while such professionals might be able to secure prestigious positions in the City of London, their lack of language skills is a major shortcoming in Asia.
This is particularly the case in Singapore and Hong Kong, two massively emerging markets that are keen on hiring the best bankers in the world, but on their terms.
The chief reason for this is that both Singapore and Hong Kong are working much more closely with Chinese corporations and financial institutions.
Consequently, there is a need for international bankers to be proficient in Mandarin, especially if they are going to be looking after or negotiating high value contracts.
Mark O’Reilly, managing director of Astbury Marsden Asia Pacific, commented that for British bankers relevant technical skills and experience are no substitute for the ability to speak to people in their native tongue.
“If your role in a bank or fund manager is to deal with a mainland Chinese client, you are now expected to be fluent in Mandarin,” he added.
“There are still plenty of jobs in Hong Kong where you just deal with other English speakers but with the growth of Chinese banks, insurers and other corporates those jobs are a shrinking proportion of the pie.”
Astbury Marsden noted that there are five key areas of banking where corporations and financial institutions are keen to employ bilingual – Mandarin being one of the languages –professionals.
This includes mergers and acquisitions, private banking, corporate financing, credit risk and management consultancy.
However, this shouldn’t deter British bankers who are unable to speak Mandarin from heading to Asia.
Compliance, trading, sales (to US and other Western institutions) and product control, were identified by the recruitment firm as being five areas where conversational Mandarin is not essential.
That said, it is recommended that all expats at least familiarise themselves with the basics in Mandarin. It will make a drastic difference to how they experience expat life.
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