Business

Hong Kong experiencing influx of mainland Chinese bankers

HONG KONG A flood of Chinese bankers is changing the social fabric of Hong Kong, as they rapidly expand their footprint in one of the world's premier financial centres, even as Beijing struggles to tame the former British colony politically.

Twenty years after Hong Kong's handover to Chinese rule, scores of mainland professionals are filling the elite financial ranks of Hong Kong, while a series of lay-offs at Western banks has led to an exodus of expatriates.

The largest increase in mainland staff over the past decade has come in investment banks, with 80 per cent seeing an increase of at least 20 per cent, according to a 2015 Financial Services Development Council survey.

"It has a much better environment than Beijing where I used to work," said Mr Hong Hao, a managing director at BOCOM International, who has lived in Hong Kong for five years. "The food is good, and the tax rate is also good."

Tax rates in Hong Kong are around 15 to 17 per cent, while they can be as much as 45 per cent in mainland China.

Chinese initial public offerings (IPOs) dominate the Hong Kong market, the world's largest IPO market in 2016 when mainland offerings represented 80 per cent of all new listings, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Hong Kong's financial services industry accounts for 18 per cent of the territory's economy, compared with just 10.4 per cent in 1997 when the city returned to Chinese rule.

Mr Evan Zhang, a 26-year-old from Guangdong province, is one of those new kids on the block in Hong Kong.

For Mr Zhang, one of the younger hires at CITIC Securities International, the increasing outward flow of Chinese capital in recent years is an opportunity.

"With Chinese people more willing now to allocate assets overseas, and overseas investors willing to invest in China, I can play a go-between role to help them," he said.

As top banks such as Goldman Sachs, UBS, and Bank of America trim their Asia headcount, businesses across Hong Kong have taken a direct hit.

- REUTERS

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