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It’s job-switching season for Chinese i-bankers

It’s again that time of year when the most frantic job switching among front-office investment bankers takes place, and this is the case in China as much as anywhere else in the Asia.

Recent high-level mainland moves include HSBC’s appointment of Jane Wang – previously vice chairman for China investment banking at Nomura – as China chairman for corporate finance.

Meanwhile, Bank of America Merrill Lynch has reportedly hired former Goldman Sachs Beijing executive director Edmund Sim as its new director of China equity capital markets. Finally, Lee Zhang, China head at Deutsche Bank, has reportedly resigned from his current post to take up a senior role at the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China.

“This is the musical chairs season,” comments CK Wan, a senior client partner at search firm Korn/Ferry International. He says with most firms typically paying bonuses between January and March, bankers – who are unhappy with their jobs or are being lured away by competitors – are making a beeline for the door.

Poor capital markets have suppressed job-hopping activity in the last two years – in China as in most parts of the world – resulting in pent-up demand among bankers to move once there is an opportunity, says Richie Holliday, managing director for recruitment firm Morgan McKinley in Hong Kong.

“The volume of jobs we are aware of has increased hugely in the last 12 months, and most of that actually happened in the last quarter,” he adds.

Holliday expects investment banking vacancies to spike later this year, before settling back to more steady levels. All this bodes well for i-banking candidates – if they seize the moment.

“It means if you are an associate vice president somewhere, there is going to be an opportunity for you to make vice president quicker. It will mean a larger remit and broader responsibilities, which you would have had to work longer for a couple of years ago, or a couple of years hence,” says Holliday.

Compared with last year, when talent in China was snapped up by boutique and local investment banks, much of the hiring will be done by large multinational banks that are seeking to rebuild their revenue streams in Asia, he adds. Sales, trading and advisory roles will be most in demand this year.

Korn/Ferry’s Wan, who expects the current round of movement in investment banking to continue for another two months, adds that firms are on the lookout for bankers with deal origination and execution skill sets.

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