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Why Chinese tech giants are hiring investment bankers

Why Goldman Sachs bankers want to work for Chinese tech firms

From Goldman to here

Large Chinese technology firms are increasingly seeking to hire investment bankers – including associates and VPs – to help them with their takeovers, listings and international expansions. And if you’ve worked for Goldman Sachs you may be at the top of their hiring hit-lists.

“This year I’m seeing more and more Chinese tech corporates hiring investment bankers,” says Hubert Tam, managing partner at search firm Sirius Partners in Hong Kong. “There have been some high profile recent moves and there will be more to come.”

The most recent of these senior hires happened earlier this month when Ant Financial Services, China’s most valuable financial technology company, recruited former Goldman Sachs banker Douglas Feagin as head of its international business.

Large Chinese tech firms like Ant Financial want to expand overseas and are interested in staff from Western banks who have expertise in mature markets and cross-border deals, say headhunters.

James Mitchell, chief strategy officer at Tencent, China’s largest gaming and social-networking company, was formerly head of communications, media and entertainment research at Goldman Sachs in New York. The firm’s president, Martin Lau, also hails from Goldman, although he left the US bank more than 10 years ago.

In August last year e-commerce giant Alibaba, Ant Financial’s parent company, appointed 20-year Goldman veteran Michael Evans as its president and tasked him with driving its international expansion.

Other major investment banks have also lost senior employees to Chinese tech firms. Last year Credit Suisse head of China technology coverage Catherine Liu joined internet services provider Qihoo 360 as its chief strategy officer, while Ling Zhang, head of China health care at J.P. Morgan, moved to biotechnology company BGI Genomics as its chief operating officer.

“Many of these senior bankers worked with the corporates on deals before they joined them,” says Tam from Sirius Partners. “So they have a good understanding of their philosophy and goals, which makes them a great candidate fit.”

But this year it’s not only senior bankers who are going in-house. Headhunters say Chinese technology companies are recruiting associates and VPs from investment banks, especially those who cover the tech sector. “Everyone seems to want to hire a banker with tech experience,” says Jason Tan, a partner at search firm Carlson Harriet in Shanghai.

“The key career options for these bankers, particularly those in M&A, are in corporate development and corporate strategy teams within large Chinese corporates who have an inorganic approach to their growth,” adds Charity Ip, a senior consultant at recruiters Links International in Hong Kong.

As with senior hires, a “foreign education and experience at a foreign bank” are prerequisites for mid-level banks wanting jobs at mainland tech firms, says Tan.

“But you also need to be referred by someone important within the firm. And at interviews you need to show the capabilities you can bring to the table over the next three to five years – be that fund raising, or investor management,” says Tan.

Don’t expect to be paid as much as you did in banking and don’t expect a glamorous job straight away.

“At first you’re likely to be doing only due diligence, financial modelling and valuation, with little or minimal external exposure,” says Tan. “And the training and quality of some of your colleagues might not be as good as at a global bank – many will have only had local work experience.”


Image credit: monkeybusinessimages, iStock, Thinkstock

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