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Equities hiring in Hong Kong: more blip than boom

Blip

An upcoming mutual stock market access deal between Hong Kong and Shanghai is now creating equities trading jobs in Hong Kong. But the new hiring is likely to be a (very welcome) blip rather than a long-term surge, according to recruiters.

The launch of Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect, which will allow investors to conduct cross-border trading of stocks listed in the two markets, is believed to be imminent, although a date has still not been set.

In September we reported that the programme was already generating fintech and compliance jobs in Hong Kong as banks prepare for what BNP Paribas predicts will be an increase in average daily trading values on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange of about 38% by 2015.

Some banks are now also hiring equity researchers and traders – welcome news for the Hong Kong equities job market, which has been in the doldrums since 2012 when banks cut roles in response to Chinese and global economic conditions.

BNP Paribas has recruited 19 people over the last three months for its Hong Kong equities division, while Standard Chartered has taken on eight equities analysts and salespeople this month, according to Reuters. In August China Renaissance Securities hired Gloria Lu in a newly created role of head of equities and the firm is currently building an equities team from scratch in Hong Kong.

This is not an across-the-board equities hiring boom, however. “Yes, there is now an increase in demand for candidates in Hong Kong with experience trading Chinese A-shares, but it’s not as strong as you might expect,” says John Mullally, associate director of financial services at recruitment agency Robert Walters in Hong Kong.

While recruiters in Hong Kong have been increasingly receiving job enquiries from hopeful traders this month, they have often been rebuffed when marketing these candidates to banks.

“A lot of banks want to make sure they can generate revenue from the share scheme before they expand their team. And in the meantime, traders from other desks can be allocated internally to cover the A-shares market,” says Mullally.

He adds: “This recent hiring by some banks is more of a short-term blip as the general job market in equities remains quite challenging, with a lack of IPO activity. Overall banks in Hong Kong are still in the mindset of controlling cost and are not looking to expand their teams significantly.”

Moreover, as the South China Morning Post points out, mainland banks and brokerages look set to benefit most from the mutual-access deal. Only a few global and Hong Kong financial services firms have mainland joint ventures, but many more Chinese houses have Hong Kong operations and can thus serve investors in both places under the scheme.

“There’s no doubt that Chinese brokers and securities firms will reap the main benefits from this new scheme – it makes it easier for them to penetrate the HK market,” says Moncef Heddad, founder and managing partner of MH Search & Advisory in Hong Kong. “Mainland players offer competitively priced securities products. They may not be as sophisticated as those from Western banks, but they do the job and keep the wheels spinning.”


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