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Moving from bank to boutique

Fuelled by the increase in initial public offerings, Singapore's leading brokerages are in expansion mode. And they're having no problem attracting corporate financiers from banks.

Phillip Securities recently hired corporate finance bankers Soon Boon Siong and Alex Tan from United Overseas Bank and Hong Leong Finance. And boutiques such as SBI E2-Capital Asia Securities and DMG & Partners are said to be adding numbers, too.

Recruiters say financial compensation isn't necessarily the major motivation behind the moves.

"It might suit those who have tired of the pressures of working at a bigger bank and are looking at a different challenge," explains Andrew Price, director of the banking division at PSD Group's Singapore office. "Working at a boutique firm has different pressures, but a unique atmosphere. Some might thrive on the extra freedom and flexibility."

"A head of corporate finance at a bank leads one department within a big organization," adds Chia Tek-Yew, financial services industry partner at Heidrick & Struggles. "At a boutique they become responsible for the core business. That chance to really influence is a motivation for many."

The ability to earn salary and bonuses very directly related to the business generated is a further appeal. "The bonus structures are more directly influenced by results. This can work in your favour in a good year, or against you when the firm is not so active," says Price.

One recruiter says a head of corporate finance at a bank could earn a base salary of S$500k (US$327k), with bonuses in a good year upwards of S$200k. At a boutique, a partner may earn S$2m during boom times, of which they might retain S$1m and reinvest the remainder in the business.

And the flipside? Recruiters say both base pay and bonus are liable to drop significantly in a boutique if boom turns to bust.

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