The Asian alternative

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Redundancies in the City and on Wall Street are encouraging bankers to eye up Asia.

A full 40% of the 1,070 respondents to last week's poll on the UK site said they plan to hit Asia if jobs in London evaporate; headhunters in Hong Kong and Singapore say they're already receiving applications.

"We started seeing CVs from London and New York two to three months before the credit crunch hit the Street, initially from the most senior people (MD level) who were probably the first to see the writing on the wall," says John Jessen, group CEO at search firm Smith & Jessen.

Richie Holliday, managing director of recruiter Morgan McKinley Hong Kong, also reports an increase in London bankers scoping Asian opportunities.

With Asian markets still booming, banks are looking to build in Asia even while they're cutting back in Europe and the US. Piper Jaffray, for example, recently announced plans to add about 20 Asian investment banking, sales and research staff over the next year, following its acquisition of Hong Kong broker Goldbond Capital; Lehman Brothers added a chairman to its Chinese office this month; and Credit Suisse hired a managing director for Asian investment banking, plus an equity capital markets banker for South East Asia.

Product skills are particularly sought after in Asia, with derivatives-literate salespeople, derivatives traders, and structurers all in short supply, according to recruiters. However, with teams in Asia relatively small, Jessen warns that demand is unlikely to be sufficient to mop up everyone eliminated from structured credit jobs in the West.

Holliday agrees derivatives are the key area of staff shortages, but says local demand is also strong for equities professionals. A report this month from Ernst & Young found China and Hong Kong accounted for the bulk of emerging markets IPO activity in the third quarter, and global investors poured $24bn into emerging markets funds between the end of August and the third week in October, according to the Financial Times.

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