Structurers sought in Asia

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Derivatives structurers are hot property in the East. Asian banks are upgrading derivatives platforms and there's not enough talent to go around.

With increasing growth across Asia in the derivatives space, including structured interest rate products, structured credit, exotic foreign exchange, equity and commodity derivatives, banks are investing heavily to meet the opportunities.

John Jessen, founding partner at headhunters Smith & Jessen, which set up shop in Singapore six months ago, says almost 50% of the firm's mandates in Asia are for structurers, compared to less than 5% in Europe.

"This unprecedented demand for a limited talent pool results in a significant increase in employment offers for structurers, which is reflected in their pay and expectations," notes Jessen.

Gary Lai, manager for front-office banking and finance at Robert Walters, agrees. "My own feeling is that products specialists will be in demand this year. The relationship managers are in place - you need the products and sales people to support that effort," he explains.

According to Jessen, a director for a bulge-bracket firm could earn up to US$1m in total compensation, while a vice president with four to six years' experience could earn between US$400k and US$700k.

Despite the talent shortage, Jessen says top-tier players are still looking for only the best candidates.

"They generally look to hire from within their peer group: they would rather pay up than accept someone who does not meet their strict criteria. They are pursuing a different end of the business to second-tier players, creating exotic products that generate the biggest profits," he explains.

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