Chinese banks are hiring blockchain experts as the government pushes use of the technology behind bitcoin to increase transparency and combat fraud in its financial sector.
Lenders have struggled for years with outdated and disparate technology. While four Chinese banks rank among the world's five largest by capital, many still use paper, faxes and traditional chop stamps to verify documents.
Now, spurred by regulators, they are looking to use blockchain to leapfrog a generation of technology and clean up the system, bankers and blockchain experts say.
Demand from Chinese banks for experience in blockchain more than doubled last year and will grow further this year, headhunters and blockchain professionals say, as lenders scramble to catch up with Western counterparts that have already invested $1.5 billion in the technology.
"Demand is increasing rapidly and shows no sign of slowing. We expect similar levels of year-on-year growth in 2017," said Simon Lance, managing director of executive search firm Hays in China, which is hiring for a number of Chinese banks.
Banks and headhunters are trawling Chinese universities for talent and luring tech start-up executives with 50 percent pay rises and salaries of up to 1.2 million yuan ($175,000).
Blockchain is a ledger system that processes, stores and tracks digital information, from crypto-currencies to loan agreements. Because blockchain documents all changes and is hard to tamper with, financial firms and regulators see it as a potential way to make transactions more transparent, auditable and secure.
Beijing wants banks to adopt the technology to help combat chronic fraud such as fake trade finance deals.
Banks including Ping An Bank and Bank of China have unveiled blockchain investments and projects, and around ten banks are looking to hire some 30 blockchain professionals, said Steven Shen, a senior manager at executive search firm Robert Walters in Shanghai.
Six Chinese banks contacted by Reuters declined to comment.