If you work in the front-office at an investment bank in Hong Kong and are of a nervous disposition, you are probably not enjoying this year too much.
As Chinese economic growth and trading volumes slow, some European banks (in particular Barclays and Standard Chartered) have been making mass layoffs, while US banks have been trimming underperformers at an unusually rapid rate.
But there are front-office jobs in Hong Kong that remain relatively safe from the axe. Here are six of them.
1. Technology coverage bankers
Chinese technology companies are trying to lure bankers in-house, but banks are equally keen to maintain strong tech teams as the sector expands on the mainland. “The technology media and communications space is one of the few where there’s good demand for candidates across M&A, ECM and DCM,” says Hubert Tam, managing partner at search firm Sirius Partners in Hong Kong. “There’s a shortage of bankers in Hong Kong who have good networks into TMT companies and strong relationship with their CEOs, CFOs and COOs,” adds John Mullally, director of financial services at recruiters Robert Walters in Hong Kong.
2. Consumer coverage bankers
Your job may lack the glamour of covering the expansionist technology industry, but you can at least consider yourself comparatively safe. “A slowing economy may have most people worried about low consumer spending, but actually consumer IBD jobs aren’t solely affected by this factor,” says Maggie Li, associate director, banking and financial services, at recruiters Randstad in Hong Kong. “In slower economic times, consumer corporations look to mergers and acquisitions for cost cutting, achieving economies of scale, or growing revenue through product diversification.”
3. DCM bankers at Chinese banks
“Greater China debt capital markets professionals with good origination skills are in quite high demand,” says Li Yejing, principal consultant, structuring and origination, at recruiters Selby Jennings in Hong Kong. “There’s a shortage of good DCM talent across most levels, especially Greater China origination people. A lot of the big Chinese commercial banks have been setting up their own DCM teams – competing with the traditional investment banks and securities houses – by leveraging their strong balance sheets and strong relationships with clients in Greater China.”
4. Equity research analysts (in some sectors)
Analysts haven’t escaped the job cuts that have savaged equities teams in Hong Kong – but some coverage sectors remain relatively safe. “Equity research people covering banks, insurance, and technology are all in demand, mainly due to market demand for IPOs and general industry interest in stocks in these sector,” says Adam Jeffes, associate director of financial services at recruiters Morgan McKinley in Hong Kong.
5. Heads of department
“Juniorisation” may be putting some director jobs on the line, but hiring is happening at the very top of the tree. Heads of M&A or country heads, who can provide internal leadership and have impeccable Chinese client networks, are still sought after, says Christian Brun managing partner at search firm Wellesley Partners in Hong Kong. “Today it's specific senior individuals, rather than jobs, that are in demand,” he adds.
6. Junior associates
This is potentially the safest job rank to be working in right now in Hong Kong investment banking. “Despite current uncertainty around deal pipelines, there is a dearth of active candidates at junior associate level. This is because of demand for young bankers with proven execution skills and layoffs in late 2012/early 2013, which reduced the upcoming talent pool,” says Jeffes.
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