Twelve months guaranteed basic salary is usually the norm within the financial services (FS) industry in Hong Kong.
In addition to the base, employers usually pay a discretionary bonus (often linked to company and individual performance and/or targets) in around February or March time, closer to Chinese New Year (CNY).
While many people are familiar with the pay structure in FS and international firms, there is often a perception that local and non-FS companies are paid similarly. The truth can be quite different and can involved a 13thor 14th month salary. The additional month(s) salary can be guaranteed or discretionary, dependent on the individual organization and is usually paid before CNY as recognition to previous year’s contribution. This is why often candidates are reluctant to seek for new opportunity around that period as they prefer to wait after the collection of their CNY’s bonus. Before the Asian financial crisis, it was very typical to hear such companies paying 13th month salary as part of the guaranteed basic because they did not offer discretionary bonus. However this has changed recently.
So what is the fair salary in Hong Kong? To be honest, there is not one defined answer. In recent years, the norm has changed and increasingly companies are adapting to discretionary bonus structure given the overall economic landscape has weaken both domestically and globally. When negotiating your salary you should always look at the total compensation fixed and variable to ascertain if it is the right package for you.