Investment banking hiring isn’t exactly booming in Hong Kong, but if you’re a Financial Institutions Group (FIG) banker in the city consider yourself in high demand right now.
Global banks in Hong Kong are increasingly recruiting senior FIG bankers to help them handle share sales and mergers from expansionist Chinese financial institutions. “Hiring in FIG is increasing this year, driven by industry expansion and consolidation in China,” says Matthew Hoyle, chairman of search firm Matthew Hoyle Financial Markets in Hong Kong.
Boosted by Industrial Bank’s US$2.1bn follow-on in February, financial services was the leading sector for equity capital markets (ECM) volume in China last quarter, with deals worth US$9.9bn, up from US$2.9bn in 1Q 2014, according to Dealogic. And more large FIG deals are in the pipeline: Huatai Securities is seeking to list in Hong Kong in June, with an IPO of at least US$3bn, while CICC’s expected second-half listing should raise about US$1bn.
“A number of large and smaller Chinese financial institutions are looking for IPOs in Hong Kong this year, so bankers with relationships with these potential clients are highly sought after,” says former investment banking headhunter Stanley Soh, now a Hong Kong-based regional director of financial service solutions.
Headhunters tip Citigroup, J.P. Morgan and Deutsche Bank to be the two main recruiters of FIG talent for the remainder of this year. The US firm poached Simon Yuan from Credit Suisse last month as its new head of China FIG. “Interestingly, I also think we’ll see some boutique investment banks like Jefferies make bold moves to boost their FIG China teams soon,” says Jason Tan, a partner at Chinese search firm Being & Associates.
The challenge for all these firms, according to Tan, is that there is “only a handful” of senior FIG bankers with the required rock-solid relationships with Chinese financial institutions. “Because of the skill shortage there’s much musical chairs between FIG rainmakers, with banks offering better bonuses and higher titles as incentives,” adds Soh.
Hoyle says banks in Hong Kong are looking to boost their FIG teams at VP level and above. “In FIG, more than in most coverage areas, it’s these experienced bankers who are most needed,” adds Eunice Ng, director of search firm Avanza Consulting in Hong Kong.
Cross-border deal expertise is also sought after because FIG bankers are increasingly being called upon to advise Chinese financial institutions looking to expand overseas, says Alistair Ramsbottom, managing director of Shanghai search firm The Blacklock Group.
“FIG is a growing sector in Hong Kong and it has pretty much escaped layoffs, even in tough market conditions,” says Hong Kong-based investment banking headhunter Rafael Brana. “But it’s also a highly technical business. Being financial institutions, the clients are very demanding and banks are equally demanding about the people they hire into the FIG teams.”
Careers in Asian FIG look set to become more specialist in the near future. More FIG bankers will focus on China rather than Asia as a whole and mainland coverage will further divide into banking, insurance and asset management, says Tan.