The War for Talent Re-emerges in the APAC Region

Finance Salaries Soar Once Again

In a recent article by the Financial Times entitled ”Western Bank Rivals Chase Asia Talent”, the authors provide yet another indication that the talent war within the financial service industry continues to rage, and this time Asia Pacific is the main battle ground:

“US and European banks are offering huge pay packages to hire top bankers in the Asia-Pacific region, in a sign that the compensation curbs pledged by financial groups after the crisis are already being eroded.”

Many large financial firms are increasing their executive talent headcount in Asia Pacific in 2010, as the region recovers ahead of the traditional financial centres in the US and Europe. This strategy of employing local talent to work for national/regional branches of international conglomerates confirms the move away from placing western executives in foreign markets. As mentioned in an earlier BlueSteps article, knowledge of local business practices, language and culture can go far beyond top c-suite experience or even a high level business education. In fact, much of the local talent will have comparative skills and education, combined with additional market knowledge and none of the risks associated with relocation.

Another interesting point raised by the FT article is that the AsiaPac region is now a leading force in the return of excessive compensation structures used to lure top talent. Historically, as pointed out by Ian Mckinsey, Senior Partner of McKinsey & Company at the recent AESC Annual conference, many organisations in the west, have been driving compensation levels up in domestic markets, while often offering lower regional equivalents to executive talent in emerging markets. However, the scarcity of executive talent caused by an increased number of executive positions, has driven compensation levels up as the marketplace becomes more competitive. Simply put, there are more executive jobs available in the AsiaPac region that are to be filled by the same number of qualified executives.

Furthermore, a recent article in The Economist predicting the ‘Decline of the MBA’ highlighted that business school graduates are quickly turning away from finance in light of the severe recession; attributed to the excesses of the industry. No doubt that as the shine of finance dulls and the supply of fresh talent dwindles, competition for top level executives is only set to increase. Nevertheless, I would question the use of compensation to attract the new generation of finance executives. Instead firms should be focusing on improving work-life balance and corporate culture - after all, what is the point of attracting the top talent, if you cannot retain them?

The question that remains is what are we likely to see in the future? Will compensation levels follow the profit margin and continue to be used as bait? Or will we eventually see a new phase of compensation policy, whereby companies pay their executives equally worldwide? Personally, I would hope for the latter.


This article was written by Christian Pielow from the Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC).

BlueSteps is the exclusive service of the AESC that puts senior executives on the radar screen of over 6,000 executive search professionals in over 70 countries. Be visible, and be considered for up to 50,000 opportunities handled by AESC search firms every year. Find out more at


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