Hong Kong hungry for derivatives pros

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If you're a derivatives professional, a move to Hong Kong could be good for both your career and your bank balance.

"The learning curve is much steeper in Asia," says Guarav Seithi, head of the Asian desk at London-recruiter Huxley Finance. "If you're a junior quant working in New York, London or Paris, you won't get the same exposure or the same potential for rapid career growth that you get in Asia. Most people are looking at spending two to four years somewhere like Hong Kong, before coming back into a more senior position."

With demand for talent to work on exotic structured products increasing exponentially, recruiters say pay in Hong Kong is on the up - making jobs in the territory increasingly appealing, particularly when income tax is a flat 16%.

Seithi says one European bank doubled the compensation for its interest structurers in Hong Kong and Singapore last year. Separately, he says a credit derivatives structurer with around four years' experience can expect to earn between US$400k and US$600k (203k to 305k) in Hong Kong. In London, he puts the comparable rate at US$700k to US$800k.

At present, the bulk of the moves to Hong Kong are made internally, but external recruiters are increasingly luring derivatives specialists from across the globe to work in the territory. Huxley is about to open a new office in Hong Kong and a new derivatives-focused recruitment firm, Capital Markets Intelligence, has reportedly emerged.

According to one Hong Kong based headhunter, transferring to the territory is easiest for either very senior or relatively junior derivatives expertise - senior staff are needed to run new businesses, while juniors can more easily carve their niche.

"To go from associate to director might take between six and seven years in London," he says. "In Hong Kong you could do it in two to three years."

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