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Hong Kong banking jobs vanishing as HSBC and Morgan Stanley both cut heads

Morgan Stanley CEO Ted Pick may be feeling bullish about investment banking revenues globally, but he doesn't seem to feel too positive about Hong Kong and China. Bloomberg is reporting this morning that 50 Morgan Stanley bankers in APAC ex-Japan are losing their jobs and that 80% of them are in China and Hong. 

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Headhunters say Morgan Stanley isn't alone in trimming Hong Kong and China talent. HSBC is also understood to have made a new swathe of cuts yesterday, including around 15 analysts, associates and vice presidents (VPs). No managing directors appear to have been cut, with the most senior individual to leave a director in equity capital markets. 

A spokesperson for HSBC said the bank continues to invest and grow in its business and is "allocating people and resources to the immediate opportunities while being well positioned for market recovery." Investment banking revenues at HSBC grew in 2023 and the bank did more business with "priority clients" despite the drop in deals, she added. 

The cuts come after US investment banks reported their first quarter results and indicated issues in their Asian businesses. At Morgan Stanley, for example, APAC revenues fell 12% year-on-year, versus a 7% increase in America. 

Speaking off the record, one Asia-based investment banking headhunter said it's no surprise that China-facing bankers are being cut: "That market has been dead for years." Alongside Hong Kong bankers focused on China deals, he says the most precarious Hong Kong bankers are in sales and structuring roles.

Some banks are doing better in Asia than others, however. Goldman Sachs, for example, registered an 8% increase in its APAC revenues in the first quarter. Along with hedge funds, the headhunter said Goldman is one of the more active hirers: "They have money to spend," he reflected. 

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AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor

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