What’s changed in Hong Kong through 2018, and what does 2019 have in store for us.

15th August 2018

MCG&Co (and what I can only assume are our competitors) are feeling a different pressure in 2018. New challenges are coming thick and fast. As a result we are needing to evolve quickly in a landscape that is changing weekly.


Here are my thoughts and insights during 2018 and what I predict for 2019.


  1. Expats. Talented expats are being sidelined in favour of highly qualified, well educated, local speaking HK’ers or talent from mainland China. Many clients are either moving their core offering from HK to China, or winning more mainland work. This will continue to affect expats at ALL levels in HK for the foreseeable future.


  1. Salaries. Gone are the ‘expat packages’ and the high level salaries afforded to CEO’s and Regional Leads. We are seeing this affecting both locals and expats. The world is in a recession and everyone is being squeezed. We are seeing a trend to replace high earners with more affordable juniors. Squeezing two roles into one etc.


  1. Ad-land. You only need to look at the share prices to see that the big groups are struggling. Merging multiple agencies into one brand (SuperUnion) to save costs etc. Long hours and pay rises that are seen every 24 months is now common place. The use of traditional recruiters partnering in this space is getting tougher each week. Internal talent teams and budget cuts make it very tricky. There are clear exceptions to this and I’m confident that this market will come back – in time.


  1. Independents. The rise of the plucky independents picking up projects from the ‘big boys’ and delivering big bangs for little bucks by being more nimble and reactive. I predict a growth across HK and China in this space much like I saw in London after the 2008 recession.


  1. Start ups. Like the independents we are seeing more and more businesses set up in HK. HK isn’t and hasn’t been a particularly start up friendly environment but that’s changing. The increasing amount of co-working spaces through the city have helped fuel a generation of start ups not seen before.


  1. Fin-tech. Or perhaps just ‘tech’. A lack of developers, analysts, data scientists and everything in between has created a candidate driven market. Candidates in this space who are in demand and talented are achieving record salaries vs. years of experience. It’s a market severely lacking in talent and I can only see this proving a struggle into 2019 whilst the amount of roles within this space skyrocket.


  1. Younger generation. We are seeing a lack of committed juniors. Taking ‘a break’ seems common place when things get tough. In turn it’s as difficult to find a decent junior as it is to find talented directors. I sadly can only see this rolling into 2019.


  1. Client side. The constant desire from most candidates to move client side is becoming a regular occurrence. Think carefully though. That big ‘global US brand’ may sound appealing but when you are stuck doing local implementation it isn’t that sexy! The competition to break into the best jobs is fierce and only the best of the best get the really great jobs.


  1. Hard work. Life isn’t easy and if you want something you need to work hard for it. Clients are being very choosy over who they hire and interview processes are dragging. Make sure you plan, prepare, and are the best you can be to nail that interview. If you don’t you won’t get a second chance.


  1. Emerging markets. Both in terms of geographical location and the wider emerging tech and social space. Bangkok, Ho Chi Min City and Manila are just some of the cities experiencing unprecedented levels of growth. The ideas and speed of quality work being produced by young and hungry talent in these locations is incredible.


Those that sit at home waiting for the door to knock with opportunities will be waiting sometime. Get with the programme and get out there. Work your ass off and make something happen. If you don’t, someone else will!

DMCG Network Offices