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Never mind the unexciting IPO market; ECM bankers are not yet an unwanted species in Hong Kong

Sentiment has been lukewarm at best in the IPO markets of Hong Kong and Singapore, but there are still jobs out there for ECM bankers, especially in Hong Kong.

Most of this year's offerings in Singapore have traded below offer prices - with only five out of 12 IPOs closing above their offer prices, according to the Business Times.

It's a similar story over in Hong Kong, where even hyped-up IPOs like Prada SpA performed worse than expected. Bloomberg reported last month that only 20 out of 49 companies traded above offer price and at least six firms have cancelled or delayed their IPO plans in the past three months.

So what does this mean for ECM recruitment?

Holding steady in Hong Kong

Rafael Brana, associate, Bo Le Associates, describes recruitment in Hong Kong as "healthy but the second half will be more selective." He says: "There has not been fever pitch hiring, like earlier this year, but there continues to be demand for strong ECM bankers both in execution and origination. Going forward, mid-level, senior associate, VP talent that can lead execution are sought after. Many global "western" companies see Asia as an important emerging market, so listing on the Hong Kong Exchange and raising capital here will help them in branding and financing their growth in these markets."

Marco Chung, consultant, Matthew Hoyle Financial Markets, says Hong Kong remains the top choice for mainland and foreign companies to go listed. "We do not see a significant number of recruitments, but at the same time we do not see many firings." Most of the current hiring is for senior positions with extensive networks in Asia, particularly in China, he adds.

Brana hasn't witnessed a significant drop in ECM hiring either and expects recruitment to hold constant until the end of this year. However, he adds that market volatility and recent decisions by global banks to slash jobs may change this.

Sharp drop in Singapore

Over in Singapore, Nick Poole, executive director, Tiglon Partners Asia, has seen demand for ECM bankers drop by half compared with a year ago. He explains: "A lot of overhiring went on last year and banks are struggling to justify their headcount this year. Confidence has also evaporated because of the crisis in Europe, so firms are a lot more cautious."

Although banks in Singapore have already done most of their hiring for the year, there are still pockets of activity. Recruitment, however, tends to be more opportunistic (replacing headcount) than strategic, says Poole.

So who is currently recruiting in the ECM space? A recruiter who declined to be named says RBS is looking to rebuild its ECM platform. There is also talk that Macquarie is on the lookout for these bankers.

AUTHORShree Ann Mathavan Insider Comment

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