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Watch out Western banks: Haitong wants to take you on

Chinese securities firms and investment banks are increasingly willing to pay high senior salaries in both the mainland and Hong Kong in order to poach bankers from Western rivals.

As incoming CEO of Haitong International Securities Group, Lin Yong, recently told Bloomberg: “We want to hire the highest-ranking bankers. I’m willing to pay what’s needed to get bankers from European and US investment banks.”

Haitong’s aims are reflective of a broader trend whereby Chinese firms are becoming more generous with compensation. Elaine Wang, fund & securities consultant, Kelly Services, says some leading local firms offer packages which compare well with those at foreign banks.

Rio Goh, manager, Michael Page Financial Services, agrees that domestic firms are willing to pay good money for quality candidates.

“The very aggressive securities firms pay attractive performance bonuses; they structure packages consisting of 50 per cent basic and 50 per cent bonus. For the more senior candidates, a sign-on bonus could be offered to compensate for lost income, as we are already moving into mid 2011,” says Goh.

As Shanghai’s securities market expands, senior-level salaries are almost comparable with Hong Kong and Singapore. The top 25 per cent of fund managers in Shanghai can obtain bonuses of 3m to 6m yuan, according to recruiters there.

It’s not just about the money

Aside from salary, why would an experienced banker want to leave a big international bank to join the likes of Haitong?

Wang says Haitong Securities has become even more attractive since it launched a RMB bond in Hong Kong. By contrast, due to license restrictions, foreign players are not issued relevant bond licenses by SAFE or PBOC, which to some extent limits their day-to-day sales and trading businesses.

Rio says culture is another important issue to consider when candidates from foreign firms want to join local ones. “But it does require time to adjust. Sometimes candidates cannot adjust and this is not ideal for both parties. This factor has been underestimated and is even more important than an attractive increment.”

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