Is HSBC about to start hiring again?

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According to mutterings in the market, HSBC is once again inclined to hire again for its investment bank.

Financial News reported a few weeks ago that HSBC was "scouting for a raft of senior hires," and headhunters now confirm this to be so.

"They're interviewing very heavily," says one fixed income headhunter. "They're looking to expand in FX sales, credit sales, and sterling trading. But we haven't heard of any offers."

Another headhunter with a corporate finance focus said HSBC is adding selectively to M&A.

HSBC was a big recruiter in 2005, 2006 and early 2007.However, its capital markets head John Studzinski left for Blackstone in April 2006, and despite spending a small fortune trying to build a presence in investment banking, HSBC never quite made it outside Asia. In the second quarter of 2009 its share of global investment banking revenues was just 2% according to Dealogic.

A return to hiring outside Europe could therefore mean HSBC is reinvigorating its investment banking aspirations. Last week, it appointed a new head of capital markets in the shape of Kevin Adeson, its former global head of leveraged and acquisition finance.

Whether anyone will want to work for HSBC is another matter. The bank has the advantage of receiving no government money, but the disadvantage of a reputation for paying badly and being lukewarm on investment banking. According to market rumour, it's offering five year guarantees - although this doesn't seem very likely.

"HSBC have to be very careful about building their investment bank," says one senior headhunter. "They can't be seen to move into the area too strongly without spooking investors."

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