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It’s tricky for i-bankers to break into Chinese private equity

Private equity firms don’t hire in the huge volumes people have come to associate with the talent shortage in China’s financial services sector. And when they do recruit, they have very specific requirements in terms of background and skill sets.

Headhunters estimate that the most active private equity recruiter in China is probably CICC, the Chinese joint-venture investment bank which only started its PE practice in 2007. The large US private equity houses, such as Carlyle Group, The Blackstone Group and KKR, are also doing some hiring.

However, for investment bankers wanting their big break into PE, mainland China remains a tough employment market. Firms are unlikely to consider candidates who do not have prior PE experience. They generally prefer to poach from each other, according to Eunice Ng, director of Avanza Consulting.

They also seek people with precise industry exposure, says Ng. For example, if a firm is hiring a minerals-sector specialist in China, the candidate must have either worked in a state-owned enterprise, or focussed specifically on minerals in another PE fund.

“There’s constant hiring in private equity, but it changes from one sector to another. If the infrastructure business is good, then everyone would focus on that. People follow the money,” says Cherol Cheuk, director of banking at Hudson.

She adds that currently private equity funds are putting their efforts into taking on professionals with experience in either infrastructure or natural resources.

Ng predicts that hiring will steadily increase over the next few years, as investment funds continue to flow into China.

A recent survey by UK-based secondaries investor Coller Capital found that China is expected to witness the highest ever increase in private equity investments from new and existing investors over the next two years.

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