Talent & Tech Asia Summit 2024
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Chinese ‘turtles’ bringing skills back home

There are a growing number of so-called turtles – ambitious young Chinese – who are returning home after studying and/or working overseas. They are also bringing their skills and knowledge with them.

They are named after the sea turtles that return to the same nesting site to lay eggs.

There are a number of factors luring returning Chinese turtles back. Most significantly, the opportunities abroad can now be found at home.

“China is growing and developing at an incredible rate across banking, finance, insurance and, of course, in a big way, technology. Whereas Chinese students and professionals felt that they had to be in the US or UK to gain exposure, climb the career ladder and earn, that isn’t the case anymore,” said Abimanu Jeyakumar, Head of Selby Jennings, Hong Kong.

It cuts both ways, as these highly skilled and highly educated returnees are a tremendous boost to companies, particularly in the Greater Bay Area.

“Chinese talent are bringing back incredible academic track records across STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), but broader than that, if a local corporate advisory or private equity fund can hire a Chinese investment banker with Wall Street experience, it adds to the value proposition,” he added.

“Having cultural competencies to compete on the world stage, while also holding Chinese cultural competencies and language abilities makes them hugely sought after.”

It’s also a trend that’s being seen across Southeast Asia. IT professionals are acquiring tech skills in Silicon Valley and returning to the region – notably Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore – where there is a major shortage of skilled IT professionals. But these returnees are not only being snapped up by established tech firms in their home countries, but some are even launching their own IT/fintech start-ups.

“When you can gain exposure in a developed market and bring that skill set to an undeveloped market – it gives one the opportunity to capitalise on the knowledge/expertise gap and gain first movers’ advantage in the said region.”

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