Hong Kong Sees Exodus Of Bankers
HONG KONG – In the Chinese territory’s posh and elevated residential area of Mid-Levels, wealthy foreigners now often ask themselves who will be the next to leave, reported Bloomberg on Monday morning (7 March, SGT).
Down in Hong Kong’s Central amidst tall office buildings, the quiet exodus of expatriates is gaining momentum. A few bankers at Citigroup, JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley, and HSBC Holdings have already left.
While the numbers are small, they’re adding up. A net of 71,000 people with different status in life left the city in February 2022, and there are fears that it could get worse.
In addition to Beijing’s ever-tightening control, the city’s government has stirred anger and fear due to Hong Kong’s weak response to the resurgence of COVID-19, with overwhelmed hospitals, harsh quarantine camps, and now mandatory testing for all of the city’s 7.4 million residents.
More and more white-collar professionals who had helped turn Hong Kong into a thriving commercial hub conclude that Hong Kong’s best days are over. As such, many are looking to emigrate to Singapore, Dubai, New York, or London.
As a matter of fact, a rising number of Hong Kong staff at global banks are asking to be assigned elsewhere. However, executives said they’re trying to review the requests on a case-by-case basis to avoid drawing attention from the authorities, and relocation of senior roles are particularly sensitive.
No one wants to be perceived as turning their backs on China, and many banks are wary of angering Beijing, which holds the keys to the lucrative mainland Chinese market.
However, a survey last year by the Asia Securities Industry & Financial Markets Association showed that nearly half of all major global banks and asset management companies in Hong Kong were looking to relocate at least some jobs out of Hong Kong.
Similarly, the European Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong warned that the city could face a significant exodus. Many employees in financial firms are just waiting for annual bonuses to be paid out, while those with children are waiting for classes to be over. But with schools closing early, the exodus is now gathering pace.
At some multinational banks, the exodus is already happening. Citigroup is quietly transferring half a dozen equities bankers to Singapore and other markets. A similar number of managing directors at JPMorgan Chase has left Hong Kong in the past 6 months, some moving back to Europe.