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Want to work in private equity? Now's the time

Private equity firms are on a hiring spree in Asia as they seek to invest unprecedented amounts in the region.

Major firms Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, Bain Capital and Oaktree Capital Management are among the most active hirers, as well as a number of other smaller, boutique outfits.

Firms are principally hiring managing directors with excellent contacts who are capable of sourcing deals, as well as lower level associates capable of crunching the numbers and executing due diligence.

Pay varies wildly for rainmakers at private equity firms, with base salaries ranging anywhere from US$250,000 to US$750,000, recruiters say.

"A managing director would be more interested in the profit share arrangement than the base," says CK Wan, a director covering investment banking and private equity for Asia at Akamai Financial Markets in Hong Kong. "They're looking for a minimum of two to four percent."

At the associate level, base pay is more in line with investment banking standards, with a range of US$100,000 to US$250,000, and up to double again in bonus depending on performance.

"There is a chronic shortage of staff at private equity firms in Asia, it's an immature market," one headhunter in Hong Kong tells us. "But there hasn't been quite the explosion one might have expected, simply because these firms like to keep their outfits small."

CK Wan says that people with experience in corporate finance migrate into private equity well. Private equity companies also recruit from management consulting and accounting firms.

"For the most part it is the hedge funds that have been driving salaries upwards," says Wan. "They're looking for people with similar skills and that is creating a benchmark."

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