Guest comment: Eastern Europe after the 'gold rush'

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Barbara Larsson and Victoria Macpherson of search consultancy Stephen Raby Associates on what might happen if the shine goes off the emerging markets.

The emerging markets of Central and Eastern Europe are highly fashionable at the moment but what happens when the buzz fades?

Right now, the emerging markets are crying out for senior-level local talent with good local networks and a good understanding of local business conditions. But given it's only 17 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, this talent is predictably thin on the ground.

It's little surprise, therefore, that Anglo Saxons are plugging the gaps, and earning hefty fees in the process. A vice president (VP) to director level candidate in central Europe, for example, with between five and eight years' experience could quite realistically achieve total compensation in excess of 600,000 this year, while one of the top players in Russia is currently expecting a pay cheque worth in the region of 2m.

For the moment the lack of suitably qualified and experienced locals will secure the place of British and American managers in the emerging markets bonanza. But how long will this last?

Ever since the fall of communism every major business school in Western Europe and the USA has seen a dramatic influx of students from the old Warsaw Pact nations, keen to gain a quick injection of first world commercial know-how and a qualification in the form of an MBA or MiF that will give them entry to the investment banking and hedge funds arena.

For this academic year the Tanaka school at Imperial, for example, had applications from eager young Bulgarians, Czechs, Georgians, Kazakhs, Moldovans, Romanians, Slovenians and Uzbeks. Cass Business School in the City itself reports around 20% of students on its Msc in Finance and up to 10% on its MBA programme coming from the East.

With such high-potential people in the pipeline it can only be a matter of time before they emerge into a waiting marketplace; the expats currently doing so well out of the emerging market boom may then find themselves in a very different position.

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