Hedge funds Down Under set to grow

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The hedge fund sector in Australia and New Zealand is set to expand. For job seekers keen to move into the sector, now could be the time to get in.

A recent survey by Russell Investment Group found Australia's institutional investors are the most optimistic globally about hedge fund returns and plan to increase their exposure to the asset class in the next few years.

The survey, which covered 327 tax-exempt investors globally, found 18% of Australian respondents currently use hedge funds, up from 3% in 2001. By 2007, Russell forecasts that figure will have risen substantially, to 32%.

At the same time, a handful of hedge fund managers in New Zealand have clubbed together under the title, the 'Absolute Return Association' (ARA) and are campaigning to turn the country into a hedge fund centre via a combination of low taxation and light regulation.

Recruiters say the antipodean hedge fund industry can be difficult to move into for outsiders. "The hedge fund sector is a small market," says Michael Markiewicz, managing director of Carmichael Fisher. Most of the funds know each other and employ people they're already familiar with.

Susan Moore, a consultant at Jon Michel Executive Search, says Australian hedge fund hires are usually either at a very senior level or at a junior level. She says junior applicants will find it easier to get a job if they've covered Asian markets.

Hedge fund salaries are typically lower than in the UK and the US, says Moore. A broad range would come in at AUD$110k (48k) - AUD$170k plus bonus, which could run up to 100% based on performance for someone with four years' experience. As is typically the case in the sector, Moore says applicants should prepare to accept a lower base salary and pin their hopes on earning a fat share of the fund's profits.

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