29 November 2016

Digital or tech skills? Your salary is probably higher than average

Source: Willis Towers Watson. Report cover for the Salary Budget Planning Report Asia Pacific for Q316.
Source: Willis Towers Watson. Report cover.
There is demand for tech talent in the financial sector, which is helping salary budgets for talent in digital roles hold steady amid broader weakness across other industries, particularly the banking sector, according to global advisory, broking and solutions company Willis Towers Watson.

Business in all its forms is becoming more data- and technology-driven, and banking is no exception. In the competition for talent, it is technology rather than finance that increasingly holds sway. Survey findings released today by Willis Towers Watson, drawn from its 2016 Asia Pacific Salary Budget Planning Report, show banking salary budget increases for 2017 are set to be well below those in the tech sector, and also below those of the financial services sector as a whole.

The findings show that salaries in Asia Pacific's banking sector are set to grow by 4.8% in 2017, the second slowest rate of salary growth among industry sectors in the survey. Eleven of the markets in the region have banking pay increases ranked among the bottom three in cross-industry comparison.

"The data, allied with what we're hearing on-the-ground, shows that as traditional banks move services online in the hope of staying competitive by better meeting customers' evolving demands via digital transformation, they are competing for the same pool of skills as the traditional high-tech sector," said Sambhav Rakyan, Data Services Practice Leader, Asia Pacific, at Willis Towers Watson.

Banking salaries in the financial hubs of mainland China, Hong Kong and Singapore are projected to grow by 6.3%, 3.6% and 3% respectively in 2017, well below the expected high-tech salary growth rates of 7.5% for China and 4% for both Hong Kong and Singapore.

"What the data is telling us is that, amid a general slowdown in the banking sector and more broadly across the financial services sector, salaries for digital roles within the financial sector are holding steady," Rakyan said. "It doesn't mean tech talent will necessarily get more in a monetary sense, but it does in percentage terms."

Unlike in pre-financial crisis times, banking no longer stands alone as the industry of choice amongst top-tier university graduates, according to Greg Kuczaj, Asia Pacific Head of Willis Towers Watson's Global Financial Services practice. "There is continued attraction and retention pressure from non-financial services firms, such as those in high tech or fintech, as the pay premium in financial services has decreased to where it is no longer a major attraction," said Kuczaj.

Even at mid- and senior-level positions, technology firms are increasingly attracting key talent away from the financial services industry due to less regulation and scrutiny in the high tech industry, more innovative and entrepreneurial work environments, and highly competitive total rewards packages.

Demand for tech and digital talent is evident elsewhere in the region across many industries, Willis Towers Watson said. As banks move online and adopt mobile solutions, insurance companies are also adopting wearable devices and data analytics technology to tailor policies, pushing insurtech salaries higher. Other areas competing for digital talent include fintech, online-to-offline (O2O) and e-commerce.

"In China, Beijing has been pushing entrepreneurship as a cornerstone of its economic restructuring. Digitalisation plays a significant role in this as a key element of an effective entrepreneurship ecosystem," said Kuczaj. "It's similar in India with the government-backed 'Make-in-India' campaign. India is also home to a huge e-commerce and taxi-hailing market, creating very high demand for talent in mobile payment technology and data analytics."

Digital transformation means there's a need to review and redefine the talent strategy to identify key skills and differentiate compensation for talent in key roles.

"In Silicon Valley, for example, top talent is often rewarded with equity in addition to a competitive base salary and annual bonus. It's very compelling," said Kuczaj. "To truly compete, financial services firms will need to think beyond merely using pay to attract and retain talent. Career opportunities, organisational reputation, security and manager/leadership effectiveness are all critical drivers of attraction and retention."


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*The 2016 Asia Pacific Salary Budget Planning Report is a bi-annual survey compiled by Willis Towers Watson's Data Services Practice. The survey, timed to coincide with companies' compensation planning for 2017, looks at a range of industry sectors and job grades from factory shop floor to executive suite, and focuses on salary movement and review practices.

The survey was conducted in July 2016. Approximately 4,000 responses were received from companies across 22 markets in Asia Pacific.