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It’s boom-time in Hong Kong for equities.

Equities traders are the hottest people in Hong Kong

Three of Europe’s global investment banks have reported earnings so far and they all agree it was a stellar quarter for equities in Asia after volatility picked up over the summer.

Barclays kicked off bank earnings season last week and said that cash equities performed strongly and that was echoed by HSBC which said its equities and equity derivatives businesses were boosted by activity from institutional clients.

UBS chief financial officer Kit Gardner said that the bank’s strength in equities was down to gins in APAC equities. “A lot of those volumes came out of our US institutional clients that were looking to trade around some of the volatility during the quarter.”

It seems the boom in equities was not just confined to European banks, with US and Chinese firms also enjoying strong momentum.

The strong activity means that traders looking to switch firms can command a 25% uplift on their current pay, according to headhunters. Even though it is late in the year, recruitment remains active with Chinese banks in particular bidding up for talent. 

Betty Wu, head of private banking, asset management and global markets at ConnectedGroup in Hong Kong, says: “Chinese banks are looking to do more business in Hong Kong and they are being the most aggressive when it comes to equities recruitment and incremental hiring. They are happy to buy candidates out of their bonuses just to secure the right talent.”

Demand is as strong as ever for native mandarin and Cantonese speakers but Wu adds Chinese banks are also recruiting western talent as they look to expand in a tight market.

Alasdair Moody, head of global capital markets, Apac at Selby Jennings in Hong Kong adds that Chinese banks are able to build teams faster than western banks where candidates have to go through more rounds of interviews. He said: “Overall recruitment in equities has been particularly active especially in terms of delta one sales and trading while on the buyside there has been a surge in recruitment in index rebalancing and systematic trading teams.”

The picture on bonuses is less obvious.  Moody says: “It’s been a record year across equities trading as a whole but it’s too early to say how that will translate into bonuses for 2022. Last year was also a record one at most banks but some struggled to pay well because of the optics over Covid as well as other risk associated with the pandemic.”

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