Hundreds of firms have been lining up for a Hong Kong crypto license, but recruiters say they are yet to see an accompanying rush for talent.
Crypto firms may appear to have been prepping entry to Hong Kong with unabated excitement, but it’s yet to translate into in-country hires, according to recruitment executives.
On June 1, around 150 companies lined up for a local crypto license which permits the operation of a local crypto trading platform. Some have reportedly even spent up to $25 million to nab one.
Speaking to Cointelegraph, Sue Wei, managing director of major recruitment firm Hays, said that while exchanges have been seeking to build a base in Hong Kong, the industry’s recruitment needs “are light as of now.”
“Many Web3 companies are still in the early stages of development, but we anticipate an increase in openings as they continue to scale up and mature.”
In fact, Wei said that since the dip in the crypto market, her firm has seen a “significant decrease in requests for recruiting technical talent.”
This was particularly the case when talent was “laid off en masse,” which made some hesitant toward working at a crypto company “due to the unstable nature of the business that mainly relies on the prices of crypto,” she said.
Similarly, crypto recruiter Cryptorecruit founder Neil Dundon said he hasn’t “really noticed much going on in Hong Kong.”
“Even though rules have changed, venture activity is extremely low right now,” he said. “Although it feels like we have bottomed, and I expect this to start trending upward from here.”
Michael Page Hong Kong’s managing director, Olga Yung, also said she’s yet to see “a significant increase” in those looking for jobs in Web3 despite the government’s recent push.
However, Yung noted a “slight uptick” in Web3 firms seeking “legal and compliance hires” in mid to late Q2 2023.
Talent war is coming
Looking ahead, Kevin Gibson, founder of Web3 recruitment firm Proof of Search, told Cointelegraph it could take six months for crypto talent to surge into the region as companies wait for license approvals.
“A lot of specialist talent has left Hong Kong in recent years,” Gibson explained. He said the local talent pool is thin, and companies landing in Hong Kong “will find themselves in an extreme war for talent.“
Setting up in Hong Kong requires key roles to be full-time positions. Gibson thinks a “talent squeeze” will continue through to 2024 as Web3 companies “will probably look to move headquarters to a pro-crypto jurisdiction if things go to plan.”
The latest data for the city’s demographics show a negative population growth rate since 2020. Employment stats for Q1 2023 show the number of vacancies increased by nearly 38% compared to the same time last year.
Yung added the main challenge is “attracting talent with an interest in these sectors” as many candidates are risk-averse given the “current market sentiment.“
On the other hand, Neil Tan, chair of the FinTech Association of Hong Kong, said he’s “met several people that just recently switched over from TradFi to crypto.”
Tan said many are directly approached by crypto firms, while others use sites such as LinkedIn to find roles.
“TradFi keeps shedding headcount every year or two,” Tan added, “so the stability is not necessarily as attractive as it was before.”
“A lot of people are saying there’s so much positive news inside of the crypto and Web3 space in Hong Kong that they’re willing to take a shot.”