There’s poaching and huge salary increases in this sector…

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Amid the dreariness of the employment market in Asia, commodities has remained fairly upbeat, particularly in China. Earlier this month, Mercuria, one of the world’s top-five energy trading houses, hired James Wu as head of its new Chinese metals trading business in Shanghai.

The firm is building a team of 15 traders and support staff in the city. Most of them, including Wu, are understood to have been poached from Trafigura.

It’s not just Mercuria that has mainland expansion plans; other major commodities houses, like Vitol, MRI Trading, Trafigura and Louis Dreyfus, are also looking to grow.

Mammoth demand

Jason Tan, director of financial services and banking, PSD Group, says: “The commodities sector in China performed well in Q1 and early Q2 of 2012. There have never been as many firms coming to China as at this point in time.”

He says there’s demand from both independent trading companies and banks’ commodities arms. “Physical traders for both upstream and downstream, metals and coal are sought after. In general, front, middle and back functions have all hired massively since the start of this year.”

100 per cent increases anyone?

There is no lack of talent either, with a ready supply of candidates coming from banks as well as local trading houses. Commodity traders who switch from banks to independent houses can find themselves handsomely rewarded, says Tan. Experienced professionals, who can bring in an entire team on board, can receive as much as a 100 per cent salary increment.

Looking ahead

Despite the drop in commodities prices around the world, Tan says: “The talent market for this industry is expected to remain stable with a view to 'wait and see' how recent public spending will spur GDP growth in the short term.”

That said, if prices continue to drop in 2013 and beyond, he anticipates some sales people and traders (soft and hard commodities) to be laid off.

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