Special situations vacant: the war for talent in Hong Kong

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Special situations vacant: the war for talent in Hong Kong

Bankers with experience in distressed trading special situations are in red hot demand as banks and asset managers staff up.

“The focus is on talent from mid-level up to managing director and that is in scarce supply, so demand is high,” says Olga Yung, Regional Director at Michael Page. She says banks are paying a 30% premium to standard base salaries as they staff up.

Demand is coming from a variety of sources. They include Chinese investment banks which are establishing special situations teams for the first time in Hong Kong. Last year, Haitong Securities entered the market when it hired Nan (Phil) Wang from UBS as head of loan capital markets and special situations. In May 2020 It also hired Linus Lee from Fortress Investment Group.

In August 2020, Huatai Financial, which is owned by Huatai Securities, launched Huatai Special Opportunities, a $500m private credit fund that is looking to invest across the Greater China region. 

Established players like SC Lowy, a privately-owned banking group that specialises in distressed and high-yield fixed income markets and is headquartered in Hong Kong are understood to be hiring too.  “This is a hot area right now,” said a banking executive in Hong Kong.

Last year Ares, the US alternative asset manager, entered the Asian market with the acquisition of SSG, which has $7 billion in assets under management and specialises in direct lending and distressed debt. 

There's also a crop of smaller boutiques such as Arte Capital Management which was founded in 2019 by Ethan Chan. “These smaller players are more flexible on pay and are also bidding up talent,” the executive said.

Strong demand means that established platforms may find themselves most vulnerable to poaching raids.

The hiring spree in special situations comes as headhunters are predicting an active year as the recruitment season gets into full swing. “This is the most positive hiring climate we have seen after 18 months of rather muted activity,” says Yung.

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Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

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