Small banks with big hiring plans in Asia

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Buoyed by a surge in the Chinese stock markets and the retrenchment of international investment banks in Asia, local securities firms are expanding their operations in Hong Kong.

"All Chinese securities firms are getting prepared, Huatai, GF, Haitong, CITIC, you name it," says Juenn Chan, Hong Kong-based executive director of HR & Administration at Guotai Junan International, a Chinese securities firm. "They are recruiting all the time, including some smaller ones."

We reported last week that Huatai Securities was looking to expand its research department in Hong Kong. Its head of research, Lu Ting, told reporters in Hong Kong that Chinese securities firms are trying to compete on the global stage. Lu believes Chinese professionals who work at global banks would have better career prospects with Chinese firms.

Chan at Guotai declined to give exact details of hiring plans, and Ting didn’t reveal any firm recruitment numbers either. Wendy Lee, a vice president of HR and admin at Huatai Hong Kong, says it’s still finalizing its recruitment plan, but insists that it will be expanding soon.

This expansion comes as large global players have cut back in Hong Kong. Standard Chartered cut 200 people in its Asian equity business at the start of the year, followed by Nomura's cutting of 12 equity jobs in HK, and about 15 cuts in Singapore by Goldman Sachs. And HSBC’s decision to cut 25,000 jobs globally is likely to add to the woe in Hong Kong.

Chinese securities firms are keen to present themselves as alternatives. Back in January, Haitong International's CEO Lin Yong told Bloomberg that "we’re interested in talking to almost all of the finance professionals available in the market".

Many are going public to give themselves the funding for expansion. Huatai listed in HK on 1st June, just less than two months after another Chinese securities firm GF Securities listed in April. Guotai Junan's own Shanghai IPO plan has been approved by China's regulator a week ago. It's expected to be one of China's largest domestic IPOs in years.

The combination of the "Shanghai Hong Kong stock connect" and the retreat of global banks has given Chinese securities firms the incentives needed to expand.

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