BoA is expanding in equities, others aren't

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Bank of America is expanding its Japanese equity business by bulking up staff numbers at its Merrill Lynch Japan Securities unit.

The expansion comes at a time when most of BoA's global rivals are scaling back their equity operations in Japan, but the firm says it believes the current downturn is the perfect time to build market share.

Despite Merrill's optimism, however, it doesn't look like any of its rivals are about to dive back into the frigid equity waters and trigger a hiring revival. Firms are playing a waiting game, says Bertrand Bailly, associate consultant, financial services at Robert Walters Japan.

"I don't expect to see much new hiring in equity over the next few months. Most companies are waiting for someone else to take the plunge and are waiting to see which way the market will go," he says.

Tom Bowden, client partner at search firm CDS Executive, hasn't seen any signs that equity hiring is about to pick up either.

"Overall there has been far more cutting in equity sales and research than hiring. On the sales side, I have heard of virtually no hiring. Only one or two houses are allegedly planning to expand in this area currently. On the buy side, several houses have been cherry-picking talent in the area of equity research," he says.

For any firms that do decide to start hiring, Bailly says candidates with cash backgrounds will be in demand as the market goes back to very simple products. The staff levels that firms will be after, though, will depend on the focus of their business.

"Firms looking to expand their current business will be looking for mid-level staff, but if they are going to start a new business, they will be looking for senior-level candidates," says Bailly.

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