The slowdown in equity capital markets is taking a toll on the hiring activity of some of Wall Street’s biggest names. UBS, Credit Suisse, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs have all seen fees earned from equity and debt capital markets fall between 40% and 70% in the first three months of this year.
And with fewer listings amid turbulent market conditions, investment banks in Asia, which had their most profitable year in the region in 2007, are getting a lot more cautious.
James Carss, director of banking and financial services at Hudson in Hong Kong, says that due to the uncertain climate, there has been much slower hiring across corporate finance businesses in the first three months of this year.
They may be cheap, but Carss says junior bankers are suffering most from the change of hiring tempo, with banks keener to add senior people who can get to work with less “ramp up” time (although what they’d be working on is less clear).
The good news is that there haven’t been widespread redundancies in Asian ECM, but this may be yet to come.
In Singapore, six of the nine IPOs launched this year are trading below offer prices, and industry players believe the current debt turmoil has introduced a large dose of caution into the IPO market.
“I’m not too sure about firing, but what I am sure of is the pace of hiring has slowed considerably,” says Terence Wong, head of retail research at brokers DMG & Partners. According to data provider Dealogic, more than 60 IPOs globally were put on hold in the first two months of this year.
Tan Soo Jin, vice-chairman of search firm Amrop Hever Group, offers a sobering prognosis. He points out that if there is a huge fall in the IPO and equity capital markets, the first impact will be on revenues and profitability. If this continues, he predicts bonuses will be affected first. Jobs will be next.