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Japanese recruitment bright spot alert: FX in Tokyo

UBS has made the news again, albeit for less shocking reasons than the rouge trading scandal or the resignation of its top bankers. The Swiss bank hired several executive directors for its foreign exchange desk in Tokyo.

Toshimasa Fujii, formerly of Barclays Bank, is now head of e-commerce sales; John Shen-Nagakura from Société Générale has been appointed head of FX corporate sales; and Ko Haruki from Goldman Sachs heads the real money sales team. Joe Etheridge, deputy head of fixed income, currencies and commodities (FICC) takes on an additional role as head of Japan foreign exchange sales.

It’s not just UBS: FX candidate demand will continue

FX seems to be a bright spot in the financial recruitment landscape in Japan. As described in an internal email, UBS sees the country as “one of the world’s largest and most vibrant foreign exchange markets”.

Yoshiki Kumazawa, manager of Morgan McKinley Japan, reckons FX will continue to see recruitment growth. “The high volatility of FX in 2011 has increased the demand for experienced FX professionals. We believe demand will continue in Q4 and early into 2012.”

Another Tokyo recruiter, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also believes foreign exchange will see continued movement. He says traditional FX-flow business revenues are usually less volatile than other riskier assets. “This allows management to come up with sensible headcount and budget approvals. Of course with the current environment, it is extremely difficult to predict what will happen even next week.”

Bonds, baby

Another front-office function seeing hiring is Japanese government bond (JGB) traders. “There has been some mobility among Japanese government bond personnel; this is likely to create demand for experienced professionals,” says Kumazawa.

Our anonymous source agrees, saying he’s seen some JGB and foreign bond sales teams which have done well. “It will be easier to justify headcount additions and expansion in these sectors. I have heard that Goldman Sachs’s team has been quite profitable this year.”

There are certainly challenges, however, in sourcing front-office candidates in this downbeat market. Kumazawa explains: “Many firms are struggling to secure sign-off on guaranteed bonuses, which makes it challenging for firms to secure senior-level candidates.”

He also says FX and JGB are both relatively small job markets, where people know each other, so firms tend to source internally. What lies ahead in 2012 is still uncertain, according to the recruiters we spoke to.

“There may be some movement after bonuses are paid, however, it is hard to comment on the volume at this stage,” says Kumazawa.

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