Too many of one, too few of the other

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Banks lay off thousands but struggle to hire people for higher positions

Commercial banks in Vietnam have laid off thousands of employees this year to cut costs in the face of declining profits, but they are struggling to find qualified people who can help turn things around.

The Asia Commercial Bank (ACB) has sent home more than 700 employees in the third quarter of this year, and cut salaries and allowances of many others. Vietinbank, BIDV, ACB and SHB have together laid off nearly 1,200 people in the first half of this year; and Eximbank has said it will also cut thousands of jobs in the coming months.

Amidst all the cutting back on staff, however, banks need to hire people for higher positions, said Nguyen Thi Van Anh, managing director of recruitment company Navigos Search, but "very few meet the requirements of such jobs."

It takes banks 3-6 months to find a suitable person for managerial level positions, she said.

The leader of a bank in Hanoi also said the banking sector has a large supply of "low-quality workers," but a shortage of well qualified ones.

He said many commercial banks went on a recruiting spree with easy requirements 7 to 8 years ago when they were expanding their networks to serve increasing demand for capital as the local stock and financial markets boomed.

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However, now, in the context of low credit growth and a high proportion of bad debts that have pushed their profits down, banks cannot afford to hire poor quality workers, he said.

"They should be replaced by better qualified employees who can help improve banks' business in the current tough situation."

Luu Trung Thai, former deputy general director of the Military Bank, said: "Many newly-graduated students do not have necessary skills and knowledge to work for banks."

In fact, not many graduates from financial and banking universities are familiar with the provisions of the local law governing credit institutions, he said.

Vietinbank recently announced it would give a bonus of VND15 million ($714.3) to those who introduce a qualified person for the position of a director or deputy director for its headquarters. Those who can introduce people for similar positions for the bank's branches get bonuses of VND5-10 million.

Whether such inducements will be effective remains to be seen.

According to the center that forecasts workforce demand and labor market information in Ho Chi Minh City, just 30 percent of applicants this year managed to meet the requirements of the commercial, financial and banking sectors.

The center's deputy, Tran Anh Tuan, said the banking sector's demand for staff was down 32.3 percent this year, creating fierce competition among job seekers.

"Banks have continued to recruit, but they are only employing qualified people," he said. 

A Vietcombank official said there were over 1,000 candidates applying for jobs when it announced the recruitment of 30 employees some months ago.

"Candidates selected by the bank were mainly those with MA degrees and good communication skills."

Tran Xuan Hoang, deputy general director of Bank for Investment and Development of Vietnam (BIDV) said the trend to employ fewer, more qualified people means banks will lay greater emphasis on soft skills and have higher professional knowledge requirements.

This means that academic institutions should review their curricula quickly and help students meet new requirements when seeking jobs in the banking and financial sectors, he said.

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