China's U.S. Growth to Spur Finance Jobs

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Chinese economic expansion is sparking demand for various finance professionals for work within the U.S., says private equity consultant Song Jin.

As privately owned Chinese firms move to invest in U.S. businesses and raise capital here, they'll need experienced U.S.-based investment bankers, lawyers, accountants and investor relations professionals, among others. That incipient trend, a by-product of the U.S. financial crisis and recession, marks the flip side of Western bankers' longstanding pursuit of business within China's own markets.

"Chinese companies that were at the bottom of the supply chain, see opportunity to move up the supply chain through some acquisitions," Jin explains. "We see more and more talks. Although we don't see a lot of transactions, there are a lot of negotiations going on."

Recent Marquee Deals

News last month that General Motors agreed to sell its Hummer division to an obscure four-year-old Chinese company, Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery Co., illustrates this new twist in the economic relationship. Tengzhong says Hummer's headquarters and operations will remain in the U.S., and it will retain the current management.

Also in June, China Petroleum and Chemical, known as Sinopec, made a $7.22 billion takeover bid for Addax Petroleum, a Canadian oil and gas exploration company. And in May, China's Suntech Power, the world's largest producer of photovoltaic modules, announced plans to build a manufacturing facility in the U.S.

Jin sees the outward thrust of Chinese businesses as a force propelling fresh opportunities here in the U.S. at a time when other opportunities are scarce. He holds a bachelor's degree from China's Xi'an Jiaotong University, a Ph.D. in industrial engineering from Singapore's Nanyang Technological University and an M.B.A. from Washington University in St. Louis. He works for a New York-based boutique consulting firm that's seeking to help expansion-minded Chinese firms source potential acquisition targets and find professionals they'll need to put together and then manage those deals.

Tapping U.S. Capital Markets

Already, China contributed this year's first Nasdaq initial public offering - the online game company, in April - and the first two foreign firms to debut on the New York Stock Exchange in 2009, specialty chemical maker Chemspec International and water treatment equipment maker Duoyuan Global Water, both on June 24.

Meanwhile, the scarcity of recent IPOs from elsewhere underlines China's importance for investment bankers. A mere 10 companies went public on the NYSE since January. Some 48 Chinese firms trade on the NYSE, nearly half of all Asia-Pacific companies listed there. At least 78 Chinese companies trade on Nasdaq - many on the OTC Bulletin Board.

In May, New York-based CCG Investor Relations organized a China Rising Investment Conference, at which some 35 Chinese companies made presentations to an audience of 500 U.S. investors and potential business partners.

Jin anticipates jobs will arise both from future Chinese acquisitions of U.S. companies in depressed manufacturing industries including automotive, heavy machinery and engineering, chemicals, and furniture, and from Chinese firms tapping U.S. capital markets.

Besides needing I-bankers to arrange deals, Chinese purchasers also will require the services of U.S. law firms; accountants to help run the acquired companies; and investor relations pros, to build deep and lasting relationships with U.S. institutional investors.

How to Position Yourself For These Jobs

According to Jin, this demand will focus on senior-level professionals with 10 years' experience handling actual transations in U.S. markets - chief financial officers, for instance. Along with deep experience, Chinese employers can be expected to favor U.S.-based pros who are fluent in both Chinese and English, and who have some connection with China.

The large expatriate community in the U.S. can't fill this demand, Jin says, because most Chinese expats are relatively junior-level quantitative research analysts or back-office support staff.

To grab the inside track with prospective Chinese employers, Jin offers these tips:

- Network: Attend events organized by Chinese companies, or China-focused events organized by U.S. law firms, IR firms and I-banks.

- Join Asia-related and Chinese-related financial associations.

- Use social media sites to network into such organizations, such as Chinese Harvard alumni.

- Learn and mingle with Chinese business culture.

For instance, Chinese businesses in the U.S. won't rely on a headhunter to source candidates, Jin says. Instead, they'll rely on executives' personal connections within local enclaves such as Flushing in Queens and Manhattan's Chinatown.

"For a senior-level job, it's all based on the connections," he observes. "So the best way to increase your chance of getting the job is networking and understanding the culture."

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