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HK CIOs have hard time finding local IT talent

Carol Ko | Sept. 4, 2008
There is a serious lack of project managers, system architects and seasoned people, industry leaders say.

The three panel discussions of Hong Kongs CIO Executive Summit on September 2 discussed issues surrounding CIO evolution, innovation and challenges across industries, and CIO challenges in 2009. Surprisingly, many CIOs in the panels had a common concern for the IT talent shortage in Hong Kong.

Were short of talent in Hong Kong, said Sunny Lee, executive director IT of The Hong Kong Jockey Club, who said there was a serious lack of project managers, system architects and seasoned people. System architects are the hardest to find, said Lee, as there was no formal training for this area of expertise, while system architects were precisely the masterminds to build the entire framework.

Thomas Ng, general manager of IT at Dah Sing Bank, said he consistently sought three skills in his IT candidates, technical skills, managerial skills, and an understanding of business. According to Ng, technical skills can become obsolete but business and managerial skills could be longer lasting.

Simon Tsui, director of international information technologies at Time Warner Hong Kong, lamented it was hard to find the tech people interested in business. He reiterated several times about the need for Passion about business, which is the key for IT people to succeed in enterprise.

Michael Leung, senior vice president and CIO of China Construction Bank (Asia) (CCB) said that the Chinese were good execution people. Talking about innovation? He said That is a different story.

Peter Smith, director of IT, Hong Kong CSL said that Hong Kong IT people in general are not willing to inquire and look for business opportunities.

Patrick Slesinger, director and CIO of the Wallem Group, said he understood the Chinese way of schooling, in general, did not encourage questions. Local IT people might not be as irreverent as Australians, for instance. CIOs should leverage the best out of each cultures skill set, he said.

Talent retention

Leung said he had programmes in place to motivate his staff with incentives. Following the tradition of the Bank of America (Asia), he said he rewarded the top five per cent of his staff with huge bonus, but he kicked out the five per cent of them with the poorest performance.

There was a costly talent retention programme at CCB, which sends selected IT staff to the MIT, in the US, for a two-week training programme.

Smith said there was also a talent retention programme at CSL Hong Kong. He said that it usually takes 16 to 18 months to groom new staff, and said that it was the hardest to retain IT talents in the Business Intelligence area.


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