Derivatives on the up in South Korea

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South Korea's reforming its financial services sector and it looks like banking jobs are set to rise.

The National Assembly recently passed the Capital Markets Consolidation Act - AKA 'Korea's Big Bang' - which will take effect in early 2009 and is aimed at intensifying competition and accelerating the growth of investment banks and the asset management industry.

Royal Bank of Scotland is already expanding its South Korean operations after appointing former Barclays Capital banker Sy Choi as country head of global banking and markets. Banks including Barclays, Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Deutsche, JPMorgan and UBS are in the country already and look set to grow in future.

Lukas Beech, consultant at Korea-based executive search firm McKinney Consulting, says large securities firms are already trying hard to increase staffing with asset management or derivatives expertise.

Both local and multinational players are in the market for talented and experienced professionals. Beech says that although Korea is currently spared the same high levels of staff turnover as exist in some of its Asian neighbours, poaching is on the up. However, candidates are advised against switching employers too frequently for fear of being dubbed 'job hoppers'.

Beech says Seoul's high cost of living has seen salaries increase to keep up and, although pay doesn't look great to us, says the difference between local salaries and those found in Hong Kong or Singapore is "minimal". Experienced derivatives pros in the country can earn anything between KRW60m (US$65k) to KRW120m, plus a bonus of 10-30%.

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