Investment bankers looking to move into asset management in Asia are running out of luck as cautious buy-side firms poach from within the industry and focus their hiring on the middle office.
“AUM is the biggest gauge of hiring, but many firms have recently suffered redemptions, so recruitment in asset management is slowing in both Singapore and Hong Kong,” says Will Tan, managing director at search firm Principle Partners in Singapore.
“But thanks to growth in the sector in Asia over the past few years the local talent pool is now much stronger,” adds Tan. “With hiring down and the number of potential buy-side candidates up, it’s now harder than ever for sell-side bankers and traders to break into asset management.”
If you’re already a senior buy-side trader or portfolio manager in Asia, the job market is down but not out. “There are definitely fewer jobs than last year, but the vast majority of them are going to people already in the industry,” says Tan.
Pimco cut Asian execution traders this summer as part of its 68 redundancies globally – but most of them found work in a matter of weeks, says Tan.
Tim Bruenjes, for example, the former head of Asia Pacific equity and derivatives trading at Pimco, has now joined investment research firm Smartkarma in Singapore, according to his LinkedIn profile.
As in banking, however, asset management firms in Asia are now concentrating much of their hiring on their middle and back offices.
“Skill shortages remain in areas like performance analysis, investment compliance, legal, mandate monitoring, and risk analysis,” says Anton Murray, director of search firm Anton Murray Consulting.
Again, Pimco provides a case in point. The firm is now back in hiring mode in a bid to win more business from high-net-worth retail clients. But the 20 staff it’s adding in Hong Kong and Singapore are for marketing, operations, legal, and compliance roles.
“Pimco already has a significant institutional business in Asia, but doesn’t currently have enough infrastructure to cope with a growth in fund sales to wealthy clients,” says a recruiter with knowledge of the firm. “It also needs to conduct more AML reporting for prospective high-net-worth customers.”
Murray adds that Pimco is not alone in hiring more people for the retail side of its business. “In Southeast Asia asset managers have focused on retail distribution of products, and more recently they’re doing the same in China, using Hong Kong as a base.”
In contrast to their front-office colleagues, operations and governance candidates at banks are being drafted into the buy-side.
“For example, there’s scope to move from trade support in a bank into trade support in a fund,” says Adam Jeffes, associate director of financial services at recruiters Morgan McKinley in Hong Kong.
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