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Working Overseas Q&A: James Swatton, Specialist Recruiter, Hong Kong

11 May 2016


Working overseas: What’s it like to work for Oliver James Associates Hong Kong?

Q&A: James Swatton, Specialist Recruiter, Employee Health & Benefits

James moved to Hong Kong six years ago from London. He joined Oliver James Associates two and a half years ago as a consultant, focused on setting up the broking business to compliment the underwriting team. James is now a specialist recruiter for our employee health and benefits desk.

What motivated you to seek employment overseas?

It was 2009 when I decided to make the move overseas. Quite honestly I was disillusioned with the UK and the economy was awful at the time. I was keen to experience a different culture and working lifestyle to improve my way of life and just try something new. I left the UK with the intention of settling in Sydney. However, a stop off in Hong Kong to play rugby and have a few beers with friends turned into 6 years! I realised whilst in Hong Kong that there were so many more business opportunities and the pace of life was exciting. I’ve never looked back!

What attracted you to Hong Kong in particular?

As I touched upon before, I was merely supposed to be passing through the city on my way to Sydney. It was the people, culture and diverse nature of the city that swayed me to stay. Hong Kong has the best of both worlds; a buzzing city offering vast business opportunities yet 20 minutes away you can relax on a beach or hike in the mountains! Typically, within the thriving expat community people are very like-minded, ambitious and outgoing so making friends and contacts is relatively easy. There are also greater opportunities to network regularly with business leaders and clients, giving you more exposure to senior individuals that you wouldn’t necessarily get in London.

How did you come across your role at Oliver James Associates?

When I moved to Hong Kong, I already knew a few of the guys from Oliver James Associates. I spent time socialising with them and others from the company and quickly realised that OJ would be a great fit for me and my career aspirations. Having worked in the investment banking markets in London, which are notoriously volatile, I was intrigued by the insurance market and all it had to offer.

What were the main challenges you faced when moving to Hong Kong?

I actually experienced very few challenges. As I already knew people in the city, I had friends to stay with when I first arrived. Hong Kong is an incredibly convenient place to live and settle; it’s a social city and language isn’t an issue at all. With the work hard play hard environment, it’s the best of both worlds: fantastic business opportunities and a fun social life. I’d advise those considering an overseas move to seek guidance from friends and employers on housing arrangements. You’ll find people are always willing to help so you’ll never be stuck for someone to speak with about any challenges you’re facing.

What were the main differences you found working in Hong Kong compared to the UK?

As we cover the whole of Asia Pacific here at Oliver James, I’d say the main differences are the variety of cultures and people that you deal with; it’s incredibly rewarding and fun. I’d also say the working hours are different to the UK and anywhere else in the world; they’re much longer and people work incredibly hard due to the scope of opportunities and progression available.

How can people considering a move to Hong Kong familiarise themselves with the working culture in Asia to ensure they’re prepared when interviewing?

I’d be surprised if anyone considering a move to Asia hasn’t got at least a contact or relative in Asia. I’d advise you to have a chat with them as Hong Kong is a very difficult city to explain; it’s key to experience it and all it has to offer. Take a trip here and do as much exploring as you can, from the wonderful restaurants and nightlife to the stunning beaches and mountains! Make sure you read the expat websites and blogs too, as they’re incredibly insightful and will answer lots of your questions.

What’s the best thing about working for Oliver James Associates Hong Kong?

The best thing? Being part of such a prosperous, vibrant company. The growth of Oliver James Associates is phenomenal both from a business and headcount perspective. It’s such a supportive environment too and if you’re competitive…even better! I’ve made great life-long friends here and we all work together to achieve the same goals. The training function is brilliant too with constant support and guidance from our in-house trainer, John, who helps us better our approach to recruitment to successfully develop our careers.

How did you find settling in to Oliver James Associates?

Everyone was really supportive and friendly from the senior leadership team, fellow recruiters, the admin team and training function! It’s a warm, welcoming environment and if you have any questions at all, people are always there to help.

What’s the Oliver James culture like?

It’s work hard play hard culture! We put in time and hard work which separates us from our competition but we have fun outside of work too from Friday drinks every week to quarterly off-sites!

What are the key attributes and skills someone would need to work for Oliver James Hong Kong?

Above all, you need to be competitive, ambitious and can’t shy away from hard work. Having a sociable nature is a huge thing too as we’re a team player environment where everyone works at the same level to meet our primary goals of success and growth within Asia Pacific.

Do you have any advice for recruitment professionals who may be considering an overseas move?

Do it! Home will always be there. Take the time to experience new cultures, people and embrace change. There is so much scope to develop yourself and career within Asia. The opportunities for success are endless.


Are you interested in a rewarding recruitment career with Oliver James Associates Hong Kong?

If so, please contact Jessica Schwier, Head of Internal Recruitment at Oliver James Associates, on +44 (0)161 8307836 /

Visit for further information on Oliver James and to view current opportunities.


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