A dearth of local candidates for senior finance posts in China spells big opportunities for foreign nationals. That’s one of the conclusions of a new groundbreaking survey of over 300 Chinese companies from CFO China, a sister publication of CFO.com.
Ten years ago, there was a dire shortage of finance professionals. These days, thanks to more finance-specific curriculums at Chinese universities and training institutes, it’s relatively easy to fill finance posts under the CFO level. However, at the very top, “a talent deficit-supply still falls short of demand,” says Hou Beili, director of salary assessment at remuneration consultants Hewitt China.
That’s particularly the case among foreign-invested enterprises (FIEs), where very few Chinese nationals become CFOs. Luo Ming, chief representative of Amrop Hever China, a global executive search firm, says that’s because “FIEs require CFOs to have broader experiences and insights than most local candidates are able to offer. CFOs have to address problems from an international perspective and know what are best practices internationally.”
Having that extra layer of experience makes a big difference in the amount of pay a finance executive takes home. At FIEs across China, the typical annual compensation of mid-level finance managers is between Rmb120,000 and Rmb160,000 (or between $14,500 and $19,400). Vice presidents of finance or CFOs, meanwhile, earn around Rmb539,000 ($65,200). In comparison, top finance salaries are around 25 percent less at private, Chinese-owned enterprises, and 60 percent less at state-owned enterprises.
Location is a factor, too. The highest wages are on offer in Shanghai, Beijing, and Guangzhou, where the average annual income of senior finance professionals is around Rmb340,000 ($41,100). “In general, the demand for talent is higher in regions with active foreign investment, hence the higher compensation level,” notes Hewitt’s Hou Beili.
As salaries continue to move upwards, Cao Ye, CFO of Shanghai Ingersoll-Rand Compressor, anticipates more non-Chinese finance professionals coming from around the world to work in China over the next five to ten years. “Competition will be fierce,” she predicts.