Hong Kong’s Crypto License Rush Fails to Generate Job Opportunities, Recruiters Report

Despite the flurry of activity surrounding crypto companies vying for licenses in Hong Kong, recruitment professionals have revealed that this enthusiasm has yet to translate into significant job openings in the country.

On June 1, approximately 150 companies lined up to obtain a local crypto license, which allows for the operation of crypto trading platforms within Hong Kong. Some firms reportedly went as far as spending up to $25 million to secure a license.

Sue Wei, the managing director of major recruitment firm Hays, explained that while crypto exchanges have been keen on establishing a presence in Hong Kong, the industry’s current recruitment requirements are relatively modest. Wei stated, “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 noted that her firm has witnessed a “significant decrease in requests for recruiting technical talent” following the recent dip in the crypto market. The layoffs that occurred during this period made some candidates wary of joining crypto companies due to the volatile nature of the business, which heavily relies on crypto prices.

Similarly, Neil Dundon, the founder of crypto recruitment agency Cryptorecruit, mentioned that he hasn’t observed much activity in Hong Kong despite the regulatory changes. He said, “Even though rules have changed, venture activity is extremely low right now. Although it feels like we have bottomed, and I expect this to start trending upward from here.”

Olga Yung, the managing director of Michael Page Hong Kong, also stated that she hasn’t seen a significant increase in individuals seeking jobs in the Web3 sector, despite the government’s recent push. However, she did note a slight uptick in Web3 companies seeking legal and compliance hires in the second quarter of 2023.

Looking ahead, Kevin Gibson, the founder of Web3 recruitment firm Proof of Search, believes it could take around six months for the crypto talent pool to grow in the region as companies await license approvals. Gibson explained that many specialist talents have left Hong Kong in recent years, resulting in a limited local talent pool. Consequently, companies setting up in Hong Kong may find themselves engaged in an intense competition for talent.

Establishing operations in Hong Kong requires filling key positions with full-time employees. Gibson predicts that the talent squeeze will continue until 2024, and if things go according to plan, Web3 companies may consider relocating their headquarters to a pro-crypto jurisdiction.

Recent demographic data for the city shows negative population growth since 2020. Employment statistics for the first quarter of 2023 indicate a nearly 38% increase in job vacancies compared to the same period last year.

The main challenge lies in attracting talent with an interest in the crypto and Web3 sectors, according to Olga Yung. Many candidates are risk-averse due to the current market sentiment.

On the other hand, Neil Tan, chair of the FinTech Association of Hong Kong, mentioned that he has met several individuals who have recently transitioned from traditional finance (TradFi) to crypto. Tan stated that some candidates are approached directly by crypto firms, while others utilize platforms like LinkedIn to find suitable roles. The ongoing shedding of headcount in TradFi has made stability less appealing, and many people are attracted to the positive news within the crypto and Web3 space, making them more willing to take a chance on these opportunities.

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