It’s the start of the bonus season in Asia – US banks are already telling employees their numbers, while others will follow after Chinese New Year.
Across the market, bonuses for 2015 in Hong Kong and Singapore are tipped to be about 10% lower than the previous year. And if you’re working for a firm that’s cutting costs in Asia (Barclays, BNP Paribas, Deutsche Bank and Standard Chartered, for example) your payment could be hit even harder, say headhunters.
Bucking the downward bonus trend will be difficult, especially in the wake of second-half market turmoil in China. You’ll need to be a top performer generating revenue in a team that ranks highly in your sector in Asia.
We’ve looked at Dealogic league tables for 2015 to find the top-three banks in Asia (excluding Japan) in mergers and acquisitions (M&A), equity capital markets (ECM), and debt capital markets (DCM). If you’re employed in the teams in the tables below, you should have a high chance of a large – or at least better than average – bonus to compensate your successful efforts last year.
The biggest bonuses in Asian M&A
Although investment banks still struggle to eke out advisory income in Asia, M&A remains largely dominated by Western firms who can offer global expertise to Asian companies expanding abroad. Goldman Sachs was top of the pile last year, up from second in 2014 as its market share soared from 11.6% to 20.3%. John Kim, head of M&A for Asia ex-Japan at Goldman, may well be in line for a bumper payment in light of this performance. “Where the biggest fees are going to be made are in the complex, cross-border deals where banks that understand the situation across different jurisdictions and geographies are needed,” Kim told Reuters last month.
CICC is the outlier here – the only mainland firm (bar tenth-placed Haitong) in the top 10. The work of its M&A employees saw it beat Bank of America Merrill Lynch to rise to second in the rankings. Wang Zilong, head of M&A, says the firm is particularly good at securing deals from Chinese state-owned clients. Chinese securities firms are increasingly rewarding staff with performance-related bonuses and are doing away with traditional lump sums, so CICC’s M&A team appears like a potentially lucrative place to base yourself.
The biggest bonuses in Asian ECM
There’s been a changing of the guard in Asian ECM. While Goldman stays in second position, bankers at CITIC and UBS might expect to be well rewarded in the coming weeks as their firms shot up from eight to first and from seventh to third place respectively, displacing the likes of J.P. Morgan, Credit Suisse and Citi.
CITIC is trying to become a dominant player in investment banking across Asia – not just in the mainland market. In May last year it launched CITIC CLSA Securities, combining its bankers with those from recently acquired subsidiary CLSA. Rank and file ECM staff can be grateful for the leadership of corporate finance and capital markets boss Andrew Low, who joined the firm in January 2015 from boutique RedBridge Grant Samuel.
ECM bankers at UBS also enjoyed a good year the co-head Michel Lee and Stuart Mackay. And they may well be tempted to remain at the firm after pocketing their (potentially sizeable) bonuses. As many of its peers pull back from Asia, UBS is bullish about the region and wants to hire 600 more staff over the next five years – including investment bankers.
The biggest bonuses in Asian DCM
It won’t be a great year for DCM bonuses at global banks in Asia – only HSBC (eighth) and Citi (tenth) rank in the top 10. Mainland firms, led by CITIC, ICBC and China Securities, dominate the league table as China accounted for 63% of Asia Pacific (ex-Japan) DCM volume in 2015, its highest share on record, according to Dealogic.
DCM bankers at Beijing-based China Securities look well positioned to be rewarded for their work in 2015 – the previous year their firm was not even in the DCM top 10 for Asia, now it's third. At ICBC, Jason Ho, head of debt syndicate and co-head of DCM, helped his firm achieve a less dramatic ratings jump – from fifth to second. Meanwhile Geoffrey Zhao, head of Greater China debt capital markets at CITIC CLSA Securities, will presumably be among those enjoying this bonus season – his bank is still number one in Asia.
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