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"Hong Kong's financial services industry needs leaders," proclaims Alice Au, a partner at Heidrick & Struggles, a leading recruiting firm in Hong Kong.

"Banks are in some cases doubling the size of their departments. They need to address the problem of who, at managing director level or higher, is going to lead these new departments," points out Au.

Au says that almost all the sectors of the financial services industry are expanding, including private equity, investment banking and asset management, and especially private banking.

"You need to find staff with an aptitude for setting strategic goals and having a big picture view," she says.

This will put great strain on Hong Kong's already stretched recruitment market, and bankers are sure to be picking up (or transferring) staff from the traditional financial power centres in London and New York.

Senior staff have already been imported - recruiters point to the likes of Kevin Burke, former head of private client coverage at Barclays Capital in Europe, who was relocated to Singapore last year.

Kevin Yeung, a consultant at search firm Whitney Group, says banks have little aversion to bringing in senior staff from overseas - even if they have no knowledge of the local market: "Don't worry about not having local skill sets or local language ability. What counts is being able to do the job in the same way as you would do at home."

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