China chasing equity derivatives talent

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China may be in the grip of its biggest freeze in decades, but equity derivatives specialists, in HK and on the mainland, are seriously hot.

Volatile stock markets, plus the desire of wealthy Chinese to diversify portfolios, means demand for equity derivatives products is going through the roof, and banks are rushing to make the most of the opportunity.

Last month JPMorgan Chase said it was appointing three new vice presidents specifically to tap into the mainland's burgeoning equity derivatives market.

The three - Jackie Lin, Brian Bai and Yvonne Shen - have been poached from ABN AMRO, Standard Chartered and Bank of Shanghai respectively, a sign that there's a growing scramble for talent, recruiters suggest.

Others making inroads into China include UBS, Macquarie, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, says Andrew Lee, managing director of Hong Kong recruitment firm Pinpoint Asia.

"Equity derivatives, both plain vanilla (specifically warrants and convertibles), and more complex structured equity derivative products, are especially hot in Hong Kong, and we expect this trend to continue, given the volatility of the local stock market and investors' increasing appetite for diversification across their portfolio," he explains.

"As mainland investors become more financially savvy, we're seeing more demand for equity derivative professionals on the mainland as well," he adds.

Most in demand are experienced equity derivatives professionals who can speak Mandarin and have an understanding of the mainland's business and regulatory environment, he stresses.

While local talent is at a premium there are also opportunities for people to come in from abroad, agrees Nick Pollock, a partner with TMC Partners.

"There is a lot of recruitment of Chinese people who have moved abroad. There is a lot of returning going on, and yes, there are some expats in there too," he says.

For every 10 hires, he estimates half will be local, four will be returners and perhaps one will be an expat.

Compensation packages will vary widely, dependent on seniority and experience, and can range from US$150k to - at the top end - a cool US$1m for a portfolio manager, he points out.

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