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Poaching war erupts as big hedge funds in Asia target weaker rivals

Hedge funds hire Asia

Targeting the weak

A handful of large global hedge funds in Asia are taking advantage of a market downturn to poach from struggling buy-side rivals. But they’re not at all keen on candidates being laid off by the banks.

Point72 Asset Management is among the most expansionist funds, having taken on 31 people for its Hong Kong, Singapore and Tokyo offices in the year to August.

And the firm is still looking to hire, says a headhunter with knowledge of its Asian operations.

“It has an excellent grasp of who the top guys in the market are. Point72 tracks the best people at the competition and seldom needs to hire people who try to apply directly,” he adds. “Its message is ‘you’re in a good fund, but it’s had a tough year, so come join us.”

Other funds currently expanding in Asia include Balyasny Asset Management, Brevan Howard Asset Management, Caxton Associates, and Folger Hill Asset Management.

“A handful of big, well-performing global funds are doing most of the hiring in Asia. Few new funds are being set up, so the recruitment is very focused on the large players,” adds Stanley Teo, a director at Profile Search & Selection in Singapore.

“There’s no overall spike in hedge fund hiring in the region, if anything it’s slowed down,” says Will Tan, managing director at search firm Principle Partners in Singapore. “But these big funds are taking advantage of the slowdown. It’s a great time for them to speak to portfolio managers and analysts who have a push factor to leave other global funds whose AUM is falling.”

Asian funds have lagged behind their peers in other regions so far this year – partly due to market volatility in China – with average returns of 0.5% against a global average of 2.8%, according to Eurekahedge data.

Several funds been hit by this downturn – and headhunters say their staff are now being targeted by the likes of Point72.

Och-Ziff Capital Management, which has closed its credit business in Asia and was last week landed with a $400m bribery fine in the US, is among those being targeted. “It’s top people are all being looked at,” says the anonymous headhunter.

Tudor Investment, which shuttered its Singapore trading desk in September as part of wider global cuts, is another. “We already have their CVs and the big funds are interested in their macro portfolio managers. Tudor is a huge name and if you’ve been hired there it means you’re an above-average performer,” adds the headhunter.

Meanwhile, Pine River Capital Management closed its Asia multi-strategy hedge fund earlier this year, while TPG-Axon Capital Management closed its Hong Kong office last month.

Buy-side firms are, of course, not the only ones to be cutting jobs in Asia. Redundancies at investment banks in Asia – most recently Goldman Sachs and Bank of America – have left many senior bankers looking for work.

Are expansionist hedge funds taking advantage of this?

“No, they won’t be at all interested in the ex-Goldman people,” says Tan from Principle Partners.

“Not many bankers are going to hedge funds at the moment,” adds Teo from Profile. “In this job market there’s enough supply of talent from other hedge funds.”

Image credit: Serg Myshkovsky, Getty

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