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Despite the recent job cuts, recruiters are still advising UK bankers to apply to Asia (but not where you might think)

Some of the shine has been taken off the Asian market for bankers in recent months. Once a seeming shelter from job cuts, the suggestion is now that not only will more redundancies be happening in the region, but that they will be proportionately harder than Western locations.

The likes of Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank, UBS and CLSA have all been trimming headcount in the region. The proportion of total global investment banking redundancies hitting Asia has now increased from 8% last year to 18% in 2012, according to recent research from Coalition, and unfortunately more cuts are expected.

Times are tough, but UK recruiters suggest this hasn’t deterred investment bankers from directing applications towards institutions in the region or seek internal moves there.

“Recruiters are still keen to move there, which suggests that the market is still more active than London,” says one financial services headhunter. “Most expats who lose their jobs are still staying out there rather than retreating to London and we’re still seeing a comparatively healthy pipeline of work, even if it’s tougher to secure a role and compensation is being driven down.”

There are also some banks still recruiting. In an interview with the FT this morning Citi CEO Vikram Pandit said that they were still “banking on the growth story” of Asia and focusing its expansion there. Barclays is also still building, although much of this is within its wealth management business.

But more opportunities may be found within the local banks. With redundancies more prevalent, Chinese banks are taking advantage to hire people who would otherwise have thought twice about joining.

“They’ll be much more clever than simply buying moribund banks at high prices; they’ll be buying people,” David Marsh, co-founder of a forum in London that connects central banks and sovereign wealth funds with banks and asset manager, told Reuters.

When Western bankers apply to Asia, though, the larger financial centres like Shanghai, Singapore or Hong Kong may no longer be the obvious choice.

As we pointed to recently, South Korea is being touted as a growth market for investment banking (although this is one for the future) and some investment banks (including Barclays) have been building their operations in Taiwan.

Another positive is Malaysia’s IPO market. The country is now ranked third globally in terms of new listings, according to Dealogic, behind only the US and China after a surge of mega-deals this year.

“In an ideal world, most investment banks want people on-the-ground in Asia already, but London experience still holds a certain allure,” says one Singapore-based recruiter.

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