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Behold the European bank poaching top talent from rivals in Asia

If you’re job hunting in Hong Kong or Singapore right now, Societe Generale should be on your radar across a number of banking functions – from fixed income to trade finance.

The French bank has been talking up its North Asian expansion plans since last year, and this month it announced a new focus on growing its business in Singapore and across Southeast Asia.

Importantly for job seekers in Asia, the media pronouncements from SocGen’s top brass are actually translating into rising recruitment levels on the ground, according to headhunters in Singapore and Hong Kong.

“SocGen is back in the game after the eurozone crisis,” says Simon Tulloch, managing director of financial services at search firm Ingenium Group in Hong Kong. “We have seen them pick up great talent recently from Morgan Stanley, UBS, Credit Suisse, Nomura, RBS, Goldman Sachs and BNP Paribas.”

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As we highlighted in February, SocGen is one of the few large banks growing its fixed-income headcount globally. In Asia, headhunters have already witnessed this hiring-drive in action.

“They are trying to build a FICC flow business,” says Moncef Heddad, CEO of MH Search and Advisory in Hong Kong. “They have tried before and failed, but this time around it should work out – they are attracting good talent in Asia, taking advantage of layoffs in FICC and poaching from top competitors as other banks are struggling in FICC.”

Equities recruitment at the French firm is more subdued. “That department is well established in Asia and very profitable, so it won’t be an area where SocGen needs to invest heavily in more staff,” explains Heddad.

In trade finance by contrast, SocGen, which focuses on commodities such as oil and gas, metals and coal, does plan to hire more people, Pascal Lambert, the bank’s Singapore country officer and head of Southeast Asia, told Singapore’s Business Times.

As global banks struggle to make money from M&A advisory in Asia, firms like JPMorgan, Bank of America and Deutsche Bank have been expanding in transaction banking (of which trade finance is an important part), a business that offers them a steady revenue stream. Competition for talent in trade finance is strong as a result.

“Though trade finance is a big business in Asia, the talent pool is limited and mostly grown internally. It won’t be easy for SocGen to hire externally, even with their strengths in this area – it’s tough to lure people from settled jobs,” says a trade-finance recruiter in Singapore, who asked not to be named.

Fellow French bank BNP Paribas is one of SocGen’s main competitors in trade finance in Asia. “BNP has been in the business for a long time. They built aggressively during the boom time and then scaled back, but they have more local branches in Asia than SocGen and that is more than half the battle in trade finance,” says Heddad from MH Search.

SocGen is also hiring in structured products and equity derivatives in Asia after assuming full ownership of Newedge, a derivatives brokerage it previously jointly owned with Credit Agricole, last year. “They have historically been strong in structured products and equity derivatives and it's good to see them coming back in these areas,” says Tulloch from Ingenium Group.

Societe Generale has not yet responded to a request for comment on its Asian hiring.


AUTHORSimon Mortlock Content Manager

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