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Fireworks in leveraged finance

Hong Kong's leveraged finance market is exploding, with JPMorgan the most recent player to engage in pyrotechnics.

"The leveraged finance market has been seeing strong growth since the second half of last year," says Mark Jones, managing director at search firm the Laurus Group in Hong Kong. "Given it's post-bonus season, there's plenty of activity in the market and there are sure to be high-profile moves."

Such moves are already in evidence. Finance Asia reports that two new executive directors and two new vice presidents have taken residence at JPMorgan in Hong Kong - weeks after JPMorgan's head of Asia capital markets jumped ship to Darby Overseas Investment. Another executive is also joining JPMorgan in Singapore to help develop new client relationships in south-east Asia.

The new hires are part of JPMorgan's effort to build its syndicate and leveraged finance team, which the bank revamped in August 2006. More hires are not expected at this point at the bank.

However, other banks, in particular Macquarie Bank and Citigroup, are hiring in leveraged finance, driven by a rise in collateralised mortgage backed securities.

Show me the money

Pay in the area is reputedly increasing - a vice president can now command a base of $90k and a bonus of $400k, up 20% on last year, says headhunter Kevin Yeung of the Options Group.

"But that's just the start. The skills shortage in the sector means that salaries are just going to go up," he says.

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