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Recruiters prepare for merry-go-round

The recruitment merry-go-round is about to get hit its yearly peak, say recruiters in Hong Kong, and the financial services industry is braced for a surge of new and departing staff.

Frank Slevin is the first high profile move so far - leaving from Citigroup to become head of global banking at HSBC.

"It looks like it's going to be a hot year for personnel changes given the bonus situation," says Mark Jones, MD of the Laurus Group in Hong Kong.

Many people will be getting record bonuses this year, and the smart thing to do is to get the money and run, say recruiters.

"A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush," points out Jones.

Rationally, it makes sense to move because bankers will get paid more than their present salary to lure them to their competitors' - and in the current market will often be able to secure a guaranteed bonus for next year.

"The banks are in a difficult position. On the one hand, they want to retain staff, but on the other hand they need to attract new staff. So onerous restrictions such as extending gardening leave and notice periods are not viable," notes one recruiter.

At this point in the year, contracts are pretty much signed and all that remains is to take that fateful step through the door.

Staggered exits

Departures will be staggered, since not all the banks pay at the same time. The US banks tend to pay earliest because they follow a December financial year, while the European banks go from March to April. The territory's most venerable bank, HSBC, pays just before Chinese New year, and Deutsche Bank pays end of February. CLSA Capital Partners and Nomura pay even later than that.

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