Shocked by London, annoyed by Singapore, expats return to Hong Kong
It’s a new season in Hong Kong. The lifting of quarantine rules for Hong Kong-based airline staff on September 10 comes as expatriate bankers return to the city.
Hong Kong’s draconian Covid 19 rules have prompted thousands to leave permanently or temporarily move to more accessible locations, but for many expatriate bankers the relaxation of rules is proving the catalyst for a comeback. .
Travelers from outside mainland China are still required to self-quarantine for three days upon arrival, but it’s a big improvement over the more draconian measures that have characterized the past two and a half years. “The easing of restrictions encourages expatriate bankers to come back. The authorities listened to the banks when they said they would leave”, testifies a banker of a Western company.
The pandemic, along with geopolitical tensions, has prompted banks to rethink how they staff the Asia-Pacific regions. Many have become willing to expand their recruiting network, especially as work practices have shifted to a more hybrid model.
Some banks have hired regional managers in other places like Sydney and Singapore where they have increased their presence. But longtime bankers in Hong Kong who argued the exodus of expats would be temporary feel vindicated. “If anything, people are coming back now,” said the principal banker, who said a member of his team returned with his family to Hong Kong nine months after returning to London. “The main reason is quality of life. They have club members and servants in Hong Kong, while in London they had a rude awakening.
For some who moved, the move was also meant to be temporary, allowing them to travel to see clients and family while China pursued a zero-COVID strategy in Hong Kong. Another banker said a number of his French colleagues had returned, including a neighbor who had moved to Singapore. “They wanted the move to be temporary, but they still came back quickly. Singapore is ridiculously expensive and once you get to know it, it’s boring. You end up eating at the same restaurant every night.
A human resources professional at a Western bank said he was facing a growing number of requests from employees wanting to return to Hong Kong. “It’s on a sixpence.” Instead of dealing with people wanting to move, we are now helping people to come back,” the person said. All Hong Kong needs now is the flow of business to sustain it.
Photo by Anjana Menon on Unsplash
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