Who's hot in Hong Kong?

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BarCap plans to add 1,500 staff in Asia in the next two years. That doesn't mean Westerners can walk into jobs, however.

Financial News reports that the investment banking division of Barclays has big plans to increase headcount in Asia by 40% before 2010, with a focus on commodities, equity derivatives and e-commerce.

Growth won't be restricted to Hong Kong. China, India, Korea, Japan, Australia, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and Pakistan are all cited as hot spots by Robert Morrice, chief exec of BarCap, Asia Pacific.

Although there's no sign of the jobs on BarCap's own recruitment website, recruiters in the region say the bank's already primed them to look for candidates.

The bad news for anyone hoping to move East is that Westerners aren't likely to be top of the list - unless they're already working for BarCap.

"The first choice is typically to look internally and transfer. The second choice candidate will be working for a rival on the ground, and the third choice candidate will be an external hire from outside the region," says the financial services head of one Asian recruitment firm.

30 Western CVs a week

Matthew Pecheur, executive director of search firm Options Group in Hong Kong, says they're currently receiving 25 to 30 CVs from London and New York every week.

"There are people who've lost their jobs and want to restart out here, but a lot are still employed, disappointed in their bonuses, and think this is a good time to make the move," says Pecheur.

He says those who are successful typically speak Mandarin or Cantonese, or have a prior link to the region.

But commodities is drawing in outsiders

When Citigroup rebuilt its Singapore-based Asian commodities team in 2006, everyone was either hired, or relocated, from New York and London.

The head of another HK recruitment firm says Western talent is still sought for commodities positions, but in most other sectors it's become more common for VPs and below to be sourced locally.