Prime brokerage - the business of serving the back-end needs of hedge funds - remains a booming business despite recent turbulence like the collapse of Amaranth Advisors. Citigroup, for one, plans more hiring in the area.
Ali Hackett, co-head of global equity finance at Citigroup, says the bank's prime brokerage division has doubled its number of employees and technology resources every two years since 2001. In fact the market remains so hot, she didn't see a blip in demand for prime brokerage services after the Amaranth's downfall in September. While Citigroup did observe a slowdown in reaction to low second-quarter reports, she notes, "It's October and we're still interviewing."
Continued growth in prime brokerage can lead to opportunities across many areas of expertise, Hackett says. Product skills in demand include experience in total rate-of-return swaps, risk, cross-product margining, operations, securities lending, project management, tax or legal issues, and capital introduction. An understanding of the investor base is critical, she says. Attractive candidates have both investor-side and hedge fund relationship experience, and understand the sales process runs much longer than it does for other areas. "When we talk about sales, the person doesn't always have to have prime brokerage experience, but they do have to have experience with customer relations," Hackett explains. "Our process is much longer, and is one of understanding the client - not just selling the client."
The competition for talent in prime brokerage is so stiff, Hackett says Citigroup will bring promising candidates on board even without a specific opening. "If we find someone who has a name in the business with a good reputation and leadership qualities, we will take a good look at them even if the jobs are filled," she says. "We're always looking for great people with market experience and solid trading and sales experience." Those willing to travel and live overseas get extra points, she says.
Citigroup seeks fill open positions internally, before turning to recruiters. However, the very-busy Hackett says she reads almost every e-mail she receives from job seekers. Since her contact information is listed on Citigroup's Web site, these are plentiful. "Only if the resume looks too funky and they moved all over place do I not respond," she says.