Where to find the next boom in investment banking jobs

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If you’re looking for a job in investment banking in China, your search will soon become a whole lot easier thanks to the lifting of a 14-month freeze on initial public offerings.

More ECM and compliance roles are set to open up after the recent announcement from the China Securities Regulatory Commission that IPOs will return to China under a streamlined new listings system.

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As we reported earlier this year, the IPO prohibition – designed to address stockmarket volatility and investor concerns about financial reporting – had stymied ECM hiring and triggered redundancies at domestic and international investment banks in China.

By contrast, the return of the IPO market in China will soon cause an “across-the-board increase in demand for related professionals,” said Peter Ng, associate director, banking and financial services, at search firm MRIC.

A backlog of some 760 companies are waiting to list in China, with about 50 of these expected to be approved next month. “With all these companies queuing up, some financial institutions will hire immediately if they are short staffed, but most will recruit in March or April – after bonuses and Chinese New Year. Recruitment will focus on people who can source deals,” Ng said.

Chinese giants Citic Securities, BOCI Securities, and China International Capital Corp will be looking for ECM bankers who have experience dealing with large state-owned enterprises, according to a Shanghai recruiter who asked not to be named. Origination and execution bankers with SME experience will be needed at smaller players like Haitong Securities, China Galaxy Securities, and SYWG Securities.

Among global banks in China, only those operating joint ventures with Chinese partners – for example, UBS Securities, Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse Founder, and Goldman Sachs Gao Hua Securities – can take part in IPOs. No foreign firm is ranked among the top-10 bookrunners for the IPOs currently in the pipeline.

“Their teams are small and competition is tough when facing domestic players,” said Alistair Ramsbottom, managing director of Shanghai search firm The Blacklock Group. “Originators or senior bankers will be hired at foreign banks, but very selectively.”

If you work in another banking function, the IPO reforms are not your ticket into an ECM job. The rules, which introduce a US-style registration system and let investor demand determine pricing, are designed to improve the quality of listings. “The regulators want a cleaner image. It’s longer about having record-breaking IPOs; it’s about companies being transparent and sustainable,” said Jason Tan, a partner at recruiters Being & Associates in Shanghai. “Hiring will also lean heavily towards quality and prior IPO experience over volume.”

Banks will also need to hire more risk and compliance professionals to ensure they adhere to the new IPO regime, said Cheryl Ong, associate director, banking and financial services, at recruitment firm Morgan McKinley in Shanghai. “And the Big Four consulting firms will definitely now face stiff competition from banks to hire IPO due-diligence professionals, auditors and financial-crime investigators,” Tan added.

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