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Is SCB the place to be in Asian equities?

If you’re researching, selling or trading equities on the secondary markets in Asia, chances are that 2010 has been a good year for your career, despite a seasonal recruitment slowdown in the current quarter.

“Equities markets remain strong in Asia, with many investment banks bulking up teams across key regional hubs. Financial services players are looking to exploit opportunities that have opened up since the worst of the global financial crisis passed through,” says Richie Holliday, COO North Asia, Morgan McKinley.

Standard Chartered, for example, has doubled the size of its Asia cash equities business – which includes research, sales and trading – to almost 200 people since January, according to a recent Wall Street Journal report.

The bank has increased its Asia coverage by hiring in Hong Kong, Singapore and India in recent months. Next year it is looking to raise its equities headcount in “the high double digits” as it also expands in South Korea and Indonesia.

A number of other banks and brokerages, including Daiwa Securities, Barclays Capital, and US firm Jefferies Group, have also been recruiting across region.

Overall however, Hong Kong has been the key beneficiary of the equities expansion. “The markets here have seen substantial growth compared with some other Asian cities. According to anecdotal evidence from candidates, as well as statistics with clients, many banks expanded their equities teams in 2010, and plan to continue to build out in the coming year,” comments Holliday.

Hiring in Singapore is not as buoyant as in Hong Kong, which enjoys a closer relationship with the booming China economy and has traditionally had a larger equities market, says Fiona Kwok, consultant, financial services, Robert Walters.

“And across the board, we are approaching the period where hiring typically slows down due to year-end reviews, budgeting, candidates waiting for bonuses etc. We expect activity levels to pick up when the new year kicks in,” she adds.

So what type of jobs are in demand? In Hong Kong, the emphasis is on the core roles of equity sales and equity trading, as well as back-office positions to support these revenue generators, says Holliday. “Senior candidates are often sought after as they bring more relevant experience, contacts and track records. More junior job seekers in this sector may be disappointed,” he adds.

In Singapore, it’s the research analysts who are sough after, says Kwok. “Heightened demand within sales or trading does not seem apparent as yet.”

Holliday says competition for equities talent is growing. Candidates with Asian experience are in short supply and can command a premium over their foreign counterparts. “However, importing talent from overseas can work in cases where individuals bring highly relevant industry knowledge and product understanding, even if they’ve not worked in Asia previously.”

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