Talent Availability Identified as Top Challenge Among Hong Kong’s Big Data, AI Startups

Talent Availability Identified as Top Challenge Among Hong Kong’s Big Data, AI Startups

by June 13, 2022

Hong Kong’s big data and artificial intelligence (AI) startups are looking to ramp up hiring significantly, a trend that showcases the sector’s growth and dynamism, a new report by the Fintech Association of Hong Kong (FTAHK)’s AI and Big Data Committee says.

Titled AI and Big Data Committee: Ecosystem Map and Survey, the report shares findings of a study which polled over 60 companies from across the regional ecosystem to understand the state of the sector, and identify industry participants must pressing’s issues.

The study identified a drive to expand, with a vast majority of respondents (82%) sharing plans to increase headcount. Of these, 51% indicated plans to increase headcount “marginally” and said they planned to increase headcount “significantly.”

Hong Kong AI and big data startups' hiring plans, Source: AI and Big Data Committee: Ecosystem Map and Survey, AI and Big Data Committee, Fintech Association of Hong Kong

Hong Kong AI and big data startups’ hiring plans, Source: AI and Big Data Committee: Ecosystem Map and Survey, AI and Big Data Committee, Fintech Association of Hong Kong

But despite these aspirations, results showed a significant talent shortage. In particular, respondents named talent availability as the top challenge they expected the Hong Kong government to help them address, ahead of supportive regulatory regimes, stimulating corporate demand, government support programs and encouraging financial institution demand.

Challenges Hong Kong AI and big data startups want the government to help them address, Source: AI and Big Data Committee: Ecosystem Map and Survey, AI and Big Data Committee, Fintech Association of Hong Kong

Challenges Hong Kong AI and big data startups want the government to help them address, Source: AI and Big Data Committee: Ecosystem Map and Survey, AI and Big Data Committee, Fintech Association of Hong Kong

Hong Kong has been facing an information communications and technology (ICT) talent shortage, a predicament that was exacerbated by COVID-19, travel bans and local talent migration.

In the banking industry, management teams have noted a contraction in the talent pool from the second half of 2021, with notable shortages in relationship management, technology, and environmental, social and governance (ESG), accounting firm KPMG said a January 2022 report.

Looking deeper into skills gaps in the ICT sector, a 2021 survey by Randstad Hong Kong and YouGov identified AI, automation and robotics (52%) as the top specialization lacking in tech talent, followed by cybersecurity (35%) and data science/analytics (35%).

Top specializations lacking in tech talent, Source: 2021 Tech Talent Expectation Survey, Randstad Hong Kong/YouGov, November 2021

Top specializations lacking in tech talent, Source: 2021 Tech Talent Expectation Survey, Randstad Hong Kong/YouGov, November 2021

Among Hong Kong AI and big data startups, software engineers, project/product managers, data scientists, and business analysts were named as the top job openings they are looking to fill.

Top jobs in demand at Hong Kong AI and big data startups, Source: AI and Big Data Committee: Ecosystem Map and Survey, AI and Big Data Committee, Fintech Association of Hong Kong

Top jobs in demand at Hong Kong AI and big data startups, Source: AI and Big Data Committee: Ecosystem Map and Survey, AI and Big Data Committee, Fintech Association of Hong Kong

As one of the world’s top financial centers, Hong Kong has nurtured and attracted over 600 fintech companies in recent years. This growth has been enabled by strong fintech adoption by both consumers and corporates, a conducive regulatory landscape, and the city’s position as the dominant gateway to mainland China.

Hong Kong AI and Big Data Ecosystem Map

Hong Kong is also home to a burgeoning big data and artificial intelligence (AI) ecosystem that counts over 80 players encompassing startups, corporations and professional services providers, and public bodies supporting the sector, according to the FTAHK’s AI and Big Data Committee.

The majority of big data and AI companies with a presence in Hong Kong are headquartered in the city and are targeting the local market. Most of them are providing offerings focused on software and corporate and professional services.

This ecosystem has emerged on the back of recent initiatives from the government to cultivate the local AI ecosystem, including career acceleration schemes, programs aimed at helping institutions embrace financial innovation, and incentives to attract overseas talent.

Hong Kong AI and Big Data Ecosystem 2022 May Map, Source: AI and Big Data Committee, Fintech Association of Hong Kong

Hong Kong AI and Big Data Ecosystem 2022 May Map, Source: AI and Big Data Committee, Fintech Association of Hong Kong

Adoption of AI and big data by financial institutions across Asia-Pacific (APAC) has risen sharply these past years.

A 2021 study conducted by the Hong Kong Institute for Monetary and Financial Research, the research arm of the Hong Kong Academy of Finance, found that more than 70% of firms across sectors of the financial services industry in the region have either adopted or planned to adopt AI and big data technologies in the next 12 months.

Market participants highlighted that AI and big data adoption has brought them various benefits, including better products and services, better decisions, automation and increased sales.