Talent in the Emerging Markets

Talent in the Emerging Markets

HSBC Tower, Hong Kong

by Kerrianne Lim Joon

The world is changing rapidly, and on many fronts. It is now not uncommon to hear or read about economic turmoil, geopolitical unrest and more frequent and serious natural disasters. Moreover, we see new trade routes opening up, with predictions that by 2050, 19 of the top 30 economies by GDP will be countries that we currently describe as “emerging”¹.

The increasing focus on emerging markets provides companies with a complex challenge in terms of finding and retaining the right talent to help them and their clients succeed along the new southern Silk Road trade route that is connecting Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America. However, these markets, while experiencing significant trade and capital flow, each possess their own domestic talent challenges. Take China, for example, it has a rapidly aging population, within which its workforce will shrink as a share of the population by 11 per cent between 2010 and 2050. China is already starting to face a shortage of cheap manual labour and will very soon experience a long-term “4-2-1” phenomenon (every one child will need to support two parent and four grandparents)² that will create serious social implications. Meanwhile, a different picture exists in the Arab world, where over half the population is under 30 and the region is experiencing the highest youth unemployment and lowest participation rate in the world³. In the next 10 years, tens of millions of Arab youths will be ready to enter the workforce but where, how many and what types of jobs will be available to them?

For a global company like HSBC, the emerging markets represent a significant growth opportunity, not only for the bank but for its millions of customers. Fifteen of HSBC’s 20 “priority growth” markets around the world are “emerging”, raising an immediate and critical need to address serious talent trends, such as skills mismatches and shortages and ageing populations, in order to employ a high performing and committed workforce who can maximize business performance. Our Emerging Markets Talent Plan focuses on attracting, developing and retaining local talent within these countries to enable the Bank to adapt quickly to changing environments, while remaining a globally connected community across businesses and geographies to deliver more to our growing customers.

Specifically, we concentrate on strategies and activities that ultimately strengthen our employer brand in our key growth markets both internally and externally. This includes developing a robust and efficient talent attraction sourcing strategy to both deepen and broaden our local talent pipeline, implementing appropriate learning and development initiatives to accelerate local talent, and increasing employee international mobility opportunities, such as job swaps and short term assignments, between emerging nations such as China and Brazil.

For the younger generation in these markets, where we are seeing a faster emergence of western Millennial traits, we continuously review and evaluate our student and graduate opportunities to ensure our programmes and placements remain progressive and relevant to support both the needs of our business and interests of this talent segment. For graduates, while we continue to attract and build a proposition for top students throughout the world, we are also strengthening our talent attraction and recruitment efforts targeted at Asian nationals studying abroad in the UK and US who may want to return to the Asia-Pacific region to start their careers. Similarly for our graduate programme in the Middle East, we have a significant focus on attracting top GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) nationals into our programmes.

For the student population, we are further broadening the opportunities currently available to them in certain countries to include internships, co-op programmes and industry and work experience placements. The Bank has also just launched a pilot scheme in the UK for 130 students aged between 14 -18 years that involves structured work experience, from which valuable learning will be shared across the Bank and could have great potential in our key growth nations.

The path leading to the emerging markets is both exciting and uncharted. The ability to attract, develop and ultimately retain key local talent who can make the best use of our global knowledge, connectivity and expertise will be critical to support HSBC’s growth strategy and success in the future.


Kerrianne Lim Joon is based in Hong Kong and works in the area of employer brand and marketing at HSBC.

¹ www.hsbc.com/inthefuture
² China’s Achilles heel, The Economist, 21 April 2012

³ Education for Employment: Realizing Arab Youth Potential, International Finance Corporation, World Bank,  2011