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Business Insider: The Hong Kong Protests are Hammering the City’s Finance Industry as Clients Cancel Visits, Firms Shelve Parties, and Workers Eye Exits

Alexandra Hamer

Alexandra Hamer

Jeanne Branthover, global leader of financial services at recruiter DHR International, told Business Insider that within the last three weeks she’s started to see a pullback from Hong Kong, between workers looking to leave and businesses moving out of the area, that could be an early sign of the area losing its grip on its status as Asia’s financial hub. She did not cite specific businesses.

“I think it is a combination of uncertainty as far as the world and China, and on top of this all the protests,” Branthover said. “The atmosphere is people thinking about leaving, and people not investing in the area.”

Branthover said one recent senior placement she made at a bank in Hong Kong was let go after the firm announced plans to shift business out of Hong Kong.

One banker told Business Insider that private banks have been getting more inquiries from clients about moving accounts from Hong Kong to Singapore, a trend that has accelerated in step with mounting data security concerns about China’s potential access to sensitive information.

Meanwhile, events planned in the city have been put on hold, or outright cancelled. Data giant Bloomberg cancelled its summer party for its Hong Kong office, according to one source, and its new hire training was moved from Hong Kong to Singapore. The Hong Kong leg of its annual charity run, The Bloomberg Square Mile Relay, was also cancelled this year, according to its website.

In some instances, finance employees are actually looking for ways out of the city. A second recruiter that declined to be named said they’ve already come across a handful of people at banks and hedge funds looking to leave. The source said the reason all were looking to relocate was specifically related to the protests.

“People have learned from the past — when they were surprised or waited thinking things were going to be ok —people have learned don’t do that,” Branthover said. “People have really learned if there is something that is uncertain, make sure your job is certain.”

To be sure, one other Hong Kong-based financial professional said they’ve noticed very little disruption to their day to day activities.

But Aaron Hantman, CEO at outsourced trading firm Tourmaline Partners, told Business Insider that recently, when hiring for open trader positions in his firm’s Sydney office, he saw an influx of Hong Kong applications.

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