This is usually the time of year when final-year finance students who haven’t secured a graduate job offer from a Hong Kong bank start thinking about their employment options, while those who have landed a job can focus purely on their exams.
But as the coronavirus wreaks havoc on the local and global economy, students tell us they fear being unemployed this autumn – either by banks pulling back on existing traineeship offers or by a general slowdown in hiring.
“Many of my peers and I consider ourselves victims of this uncertain market situation,” says Tobias Kiu (a pseudonym), a finance and accounting major at CUHK. “We have strong academic results and banking/finance internship experience, but still can’t find a job. Banking is a cyclical industry, and this year I think headcounts for full-time jobs will be cut a lot,” he adds.
To date, the official word from Hong Kong banks is that their recruitment, including at graduate level, hasn’t been cut, but students we spoke with are anxious that hiring will be stripped back by the second half of the year – just as they leave university – as the full economic impact of the coronavirus kicks in. Hong Kong’s economy suffered its first annual recession in a decade last year. This week Standard Chartered lowered its 2020 GDP growth forecast for Hong Kong to -4.8% from -2.4%, its second downgrade since the local Covid-19 outbreak began in January.
Kiu says some of his finance student friends would now consider positions in any industry and are no longer set on banking. “They just want to secure a job,” he adds.
“Even people who have a high GPA – not below 3.5 – with some past internship experience, still can’t find a grad job,” says Jax Heung, who’s graduating from CUHK with a degree in finance and banking. Heung, who like all the students quoted asked us not to use his real name, says he’s “very lucky” to have secured a return offer, even though it’s at a second-tier bank.
Remington Cou, a BBA student at HKUST, says he is nervous because his contacts working in the banking sector are speculating that junior hiring will be cut. “If I were to rate my concern about the jobs impact of both the virus and the protests on a scale of one to 10, it would definitely be a 10,” says Cou.
HKU finance major Jaliyah Stokes (a pseudonym) says that an “unprecedented economic slowdown” and declining corporate dealmaking across Greater China will mean financial institutions in Hong Kong will reduce graduate intakes later this year.
Hong Kong finance students face a difficult few months as they await news on graduate jobs. Cou from HKUST, however, may take matters into his own hands. “This has made me realise that waiting for banks to hand me job contracts isn’t the wisest plan, and I might just have to set up my own business if things get even worse,” he adds.
Photo by Samuel Holt on Unsplash
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