Time to pack your bags for Asia?

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With the Hang Seng breaking through 30,000 for the first time this month, now's a good time for Aussie bankers to break into Asia.

Andrew Valentine, from recruiter Jon Michel Executive Search, says, "Unemployment is low and regional GDP growth is outpacing the rest of the world, so demand for investment banking services and for skilled investment bankers is likely to continue."

"The advantage for Australian bankers is exposure to larger and more diverse markets, bigger companies and deals, and more upside in pay, with less tax."

M&A activity in Asia ex-Japan surged 80% to US$315bn in the first nine months of this year, according to Thomson Financial. Australian M&A deals rose 55% during the same period, to US$159bn.

US banks like Lehman Brothers and Piper Jaffray have been growing their presence in Asia. JPMorgan plans to increase its Asia revenues by 40% per annum over the next few years and is one of several banks seeking to take advantage of a relaxation of rules on joint ventures with Chinese brokerages to buy into the Chinese market.

Macquarie Bank is also rapidly growing its presence in Asia, but most Australian banks don't figure prominently in the region.

Bob Olivier, director at recruitment firm Olivier Group, says experience at a big global player in Asia will do no harm to your CV when you decide to return to Australia: "Clients like people to have gained global experience. While they are prepared to let their talent build their experience overseas, particularly within their organization, they would prefer their staff to have got the travel bug out of the system."

The best bet is probably to make the move internally. Olivier advises juniors with one to two years' experience to start sounding out the options with current employers, and to make the move another two to three years later.

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