Investment banks in Hong Kong are desperate for VPs

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Where are all the VPs in Hong Kong? As the financial crisis took hold in 2008, investment banks stemmed their intake of graduates and it’s only now that they’re starting to pay the price.

"The 2008 graduate population is now coming of age and for obvious reasons this was one of the smallest intakes on record, " says William Bown, a Hong Kong-based consultant of financial search firm Sheffield Haworth. "More demand is therefore also a direct consequence of lack of supply."

If you follow the rule of thumb that it takes about three years for an analyst to become an associate, and another three years to be promoted to vice president (VP), then a graduate who went into banking in 2008 or 2009 should be about to become a VP.

"Obviously there was a massive decrease in recruitment after 2008 in the front office," says Brad Miller, a director at financial headhunter Eximius. Investment banks didn’t increase their intakes of associates in 2009-2011 to help address the problem then, he adds.

This lack of supply is exacerbated by an increase in demand currently. Until the recent slump, both the stock market in both Shanghai and Hong Kong were surging since the "Shanghai-HK stock connect" came into effect in November last year. This boosted business in both sides of the border, leading to many more Chinese banks seeking expansion into HK. This has also led to more of the current analyst and associate class to move into private equity – adding to the VP shortage.

Currently there are 494 front office job openings in Hong Kong featured on our website, among which 83 are at VP level, a ratio about 17%. It's just slightly less than analyst openings, which stands at 89. Considering that analysts are entry level jobs and there are normally many more analysts than jobs at other levels, the demand for VPs are exceptionally high at the moment.

"If everyone is looking for them, there's not going to be enough of them," comments Jason Ne Win, HK-based principal consultant for investment banking and private equity at the search firm Selby Jennings.

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