Even without the promised changes in the financial system, Macau already has a shortage of skilled labour. To provide more and better services the city badly needs more talents. The question is: how to attract them.
MB April 2021 Special Report | Financial Hub in the making
New and more modern laws are needed to enable the development of a financial system in Macau, everyone agrees. Despite the delays, no one doubts that Macau will have a revision of the Financial System Act (please see previous text).
Much more complicated is to solve the other major problem that affects the development of a financial system: the lack of human resources.
And the difficulty does not arise because there are doubts about the scarcity of local talent – everyone agrees on this topic. The problem is, how to solve it: if training can help, with results uncertain and time-consuming, promoting a policy of importing specialized staff could bring more results.
However, everyone knows that the population of Macau does not like policies in favour of importing labour (whether specialized or not), which has resulted in successive deficits in certain sectors such as gaming and hospitality. Even without the promised revolution in the financial system, the local sector is already dealing with a shortage of skilled staff.
The Talent Development Commission has regularly published lists with the sectors in which there is a high demand for professionals, and finance is one of them. Based on data released by DSEC, from 2010 to 2018, the average labour force employed in the financial sector was only 9,600 people.
“There is a notable shortage of local professionals,” urge the authors of the project “Research on the factors of development of a financial sector in Macau”. “Needless to say, the lack of human resources is one of the constraints for sectoral development, with indirect effects on the advance of adequate diversification of the economy,” state Deqin and Leung Chung Sing.
In their research project, Lin and Leung identify two major gaps that Macau must address: insufficient training institutions (see text on this page) and what they call an “unclear human resources import policy.”
“It is well known that the city has always remained at a preliminary stage with regard to the creation of talent import policies,” reads the document. “Under the principle that the MSAR government has as a priority to guarantee access to employment for the population, it is easy to understand the balance it has sought to maintain in the labour market.”
Talent importation has yet another constraint, in addition to the local mindset.
In an opinion article published in Macau Business in February, Jorge Costa Oliveira, from JCO Consultancy, recalled two important points: on the one hand, “the legion of foreign firms, consultants, investment analysts and other qualified professionals that work in this sector in Hong Kong”, and that “unlike other sectors, thus far, the vast majority of these financial sector professionals has not shown any inclination to move or set up shop in Shanghai or Shenzhen”, compelling many financial firms from Mainland China to move or to open offices in Hong Kong, “thus strengthening Hong Kong’s role as the foremost financial centre of China”. Will Macau be able to attract some of them?
On the other hand, Mr. Oliveira states: “to be blunt, the strategic approach to be adopted by the government should be the very opposite to Macau’s tradition: no special protection should be awarded to local groups, families or vested interests, since they have no critical mass, and Macau needs to move at a fast pace towards establishing a financial services platform.”
There is yet another difficulty, identified by various sectors of Macau, but here surprisingly reported in the Global Times: “Local young people seem to be reluctant to engage in high-pay and high-intensity work,” wrote Liang Haiming, chairman of China’s Silk Road iValley Research Institute.
The path, therefore, is not an easy one.
“In order for the MSAR to become a FinTech stronghold in the Greater Bay Area (GBA), it needs to develop a much stronger start-up ecosystem,” Oriol Caudevilla tells Macau Business. Sérgio Gomes also mentions the GBA factor as decisive: “with a larger financial sector, Macau could capture some GBA financial services businesses, with financial firms expanding to Macau and inevitably leading to a cluster effect as a result of the gathering of a wide range of professional and business services in legal affairs, accounting, investment banking, and securities rating,” explains the senior lecturer, Faculty of Business and Law, University of Saint Joseph to Macau Business.
But perhaps it all comes down to the idea that one of the most in-demand gaming experts uses frequently, when asked about the diversification of the local economy: “we need to basically open up Macau,” states Ben Lee, from iGamix Management & Consulting.
Macau Institute of Finance
“For Macau to be able to attract part of the available financial functions, it is necessary to expand, and greatly, higher education in this context, so that HR training can be strengthened and the required qualification provided,” reads the “Research on the factors of development of a financial sector in Macau” report.
To help resolve this shortage, the new Macau Institute of Finance was unveiled last February.
As far as Macau Business could ascertain, it aims to carry out studies/reports and submit proposals on the development of the financial system of Macau.
In the photograph, taken from the newspaper Ou Mun, we can see the director Jacky Fong (left) and Yp Sio Kai, deputy general manager of the Macau branch of the Bank of China and also a lawmaker.