Return of the expats

by 10 Jun 2008

EXECUTIVE EXPATS in New York and London are returning home earlier than expected in the face of global financial market instability.

As a result of the growing global credit crisis and continued market uncertainty, Australian businesses are luring highly skilled banking and finance executives back to the Australian market as Europe and the US see a decrease in executive searches.

The Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC) indicates that executive search activity in the financial services sector globally has decreased 7.2 per cent in the past twelve months.

The Asia Pacific region, however, is facing the highest level of talent shortage for C-Suite hires of any major market in the world, with predictions that it will continue for another decade. The region recorded the greatest increase in number of searches internationally – up by 8.5 per cent.

“It’s good for Australia, as we are getting access to some of that expat talent earlier than expected – which wouldn’t have happened had the markets not turned,” said Amanda Williams, partner of executive search firm Johnson.

“The upshot is that there has never been a better time to attract expat talent home. Markets forces are playing in our favour for organisations looking to hire in that area.”

While there were fewer searches in investment banking, capital markets and real estate, there is still a high global demand for executives in private banking, asset management, private equity and insurance. With lower global demand for these positions, Australian businesses face less competition when recruiting top talent executives in those fields.

While worries mount about the emerging markets of China and Indiaand the loss of top employees to them, the effects of their expansion are twofold. While some Australian executives flock to these areas, it is opening up positions for the returning experienced expats in the northern hemisphere.

According to Williams, the companies that are well positioned to capitalise on this are the financial services organisations that are headquartered out of Australia.

Some of the European and US investment banks are seeing hiring freezes as their operations here are being impacted by their parents’ troubles offshore.

Domestically domiciled investment banks are less affected by the activities offshore and can still make some proactive hiring decisions and attract top international or expat talent from those troubled offshore markets.

“What we have noticed is this year we have seen more Australian and New Zealander expats expressing the interest to come home; much more than even six months ago,” Williams said. “This is the talent we want back here.”


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