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Booming demand for algorithmic trading specialists means pay in the area has risen 20% in the past year.

Recruiters say the growth of algorithmic trading and front as well as back-office functions among Asian financial institutions is spurring massive demand for programmers.

Last year, IT consulting company Celent claimed 2006 to 2008 would see technology investment in the Asia Pacific region increase at a compound annual rate of 11.4%.

According to Andrea Williams, director of recruitment company Ambition in Hong Kong, such enormous growth has indeed come to pass: "The increase in technology investment over the last 12 to 18 months in Asia has resulted in increased demand for developers in front- and back-office roles," she says. "Front-office skills are in particular demand as these individuals have to deal with a lot more than just developing new applications."

Dealing with front-line sales functions requires tact, Williams adds, as well as the skill to develop algorithmic trading programmes in C++, C# and Java. Despite the fact that many quantitative funds using algorithms have lost money, Williams predicts technology will be one area of recruitment unlikely to be hit by recent market events.

"The local talent pool is dwindling, as you would expect in a buoyant market like this," she says. "There has already been a lot of movement in Asia, with the top banks competing for the same people - and salaries have been increasing in an effort to attract and retain staff."

This creates plenty of opportunities for those in Europe and the USA wanting to experience life in Asia, pushing salaries up yet further, particularly in Singapore. As a result, remuneration packages have increased by a minimum 20% over the last nine to 12 months, with Singapore winning the race against Hong Kong to attract top IT talent, as more and more banks establish operational and technology hubs in the country.

Recruiters say the market rate for a C++ programmer working on algo trading in a front-office environment is in the region of US$150k with a bonus of US$40k to US$50k.

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