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Candidate to bank: Give me the world Bank to candidate: Only if you give me China

This year is likely to be another strong one for M&A deals in Asia. And as hiring heats up as a result, the banks with the largest global networks and the candidates who know China and speak Mandarin will reap the rewards.

Asian M&A volumes in Q4 2010 reached a healthy US$198bn, the best quarterly result since before the financial crisis, according to data provider Dealogic. And this year could see as much as a 30 per cent gain over last year, Colin Banfield, head of mergers for Citigroup in Hong Kong, told Financial News.

Alongside this optimistic outlook on the deal front, two trends are emerging in the employment market. Firstly, as Chinese companies acquire more overseas assets, M&A candidates are increasingly concerned about a potential employer's international capabilities.

Investment bankers in Hong Kong don't want to miss out on cross-border deals because the firm they've moved to hasn't got sufficient global reach, says a senior headhunter, who asked not to be named. "For example, if a Chinese company was buying a Canadian company, it would need a bank with a strong presence in Canada. Bankers want to join global banks. The boutiques will find it harder to compete for talent," he adds.

This bodes well for recruitment at global giants Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, Nomura and Morgan Stanley who also happen to be the top five M&A advisors in Asia so far this year, according to Dealogic.

The second employment trend is that, as China takes an increasing share of deals, banks in Hong Kong are finding themselves short of bankers with mainland experience.

Mandarin's a must

Although many of their M&A bankers are based in Hong Kong, Asia's M&A hub, firms want to attract mainland clients looking to expand overseas, so they need to hire bankers with networks in China. "All our clients are looking for native-level Mandarin speakers who are M&A specialists," says Eunice Ng, director, Avanza Consulting.

Hong Kong M&A candidates often miss out on roles if they don't speak Mandarin because communicating with China-based acquiring businesses is now crucial to winning and executing many M&A mandates, especially in sectors such as natural resources, says Damian Babis, director, Capital People.

A talent shortage is forcing banks to consider hiring, or transferring, Mandarin-speaking capital markets bankers into M&A roles. "Banks have realised that they've neglected M&A recently in favour of IPOs and now they're caught short. Some will also look at people from service providers - law firms, management consultancies, and accounting firms - who have language and modelling skills," adds Babis.

AUTHORSimon Mortlock Content Manager

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