Headhunters reveal brutal truth of Asian hedge fund hiring in 2017

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Asian hedge fund hiring

Like investment banks, hedge funds in Asia tend to do much of the hiring in the weeks following Chinese New Year. But their recruitment plans for the Year of the Rooster are already looking decidedly subdued, say hedge fund recruiters in Singapore and Hong Kong.

This is what you need to know if you’re looking for a hedge fund job in Asia in 2017.

Overall, it’s a downbeat job market

Asia’s hedge funds trailed their global peers last year for the first time since 2011, gaining only 0.8% in the 11 months to November, according to Eurekahedge data. In September, Tudor Investment shuttered its Singapore trading desk and TPG-Axon Capital Management closed its Hong Kong office. “Most of the guys running equity long-short funds in Asia didn’t do well last year. And when there’s AUM pressure and you’re worried about redemptions, you’re not exactly in the mood to hire,” says Will Tan, a former Citi equity researcher, now managing partner at buy-side headhunters Principle Partners in Singapore. “I expect more of the same in 2017 – so recruitment will be muted, especially compared with 2015.”

Some outliers

“There will still be some big global names – Balyasny Asset Management, for example – selectively hiring in Asia. They’ll still been keen to talk to senior portfolio managers who can come in and run a big book. The local players will be less busy, but Graticule, the Singapore macro hedge fund, will be recruiting,” says a headhunter with knowledge of the firms. “Watch out for firms launching new strategies in Asia – they'll need new people to fill the coverage gaps.”

Bankers not wanted

“When hedge funds in Singapore and Hong Kong do hire this year, they will go to their competitors to get plug-and-play analysts and portfolio managers,” says Tan. “It’s always been very hard for junior bankers to move to hedge funds – especially in Asia where the industry is comparatively small – but this year it’s even worse. Good luck if that’s your goal for 2017.”

Juniors forced into asset management

“If you’re in a shop managing less than $300m, you’re in a risky place because last year some of these firms closed in Singapore and that will happen again this year,” says Tan. “Many people from hedge funds that shut down are actually moving to similar roles in asset management. Especially once they hit their 30s, people are now increasingly trading the high potential earnings at hedge funds for the job stability in asset management.”

Quant skills in demand

As in Western markets, there’s comparatively high demand in Singapore and Hong Kong for candidates with quant/maths expertise and a “strong commercial ability to analyse companies from all angles, covering profitability metrics in key risk areas”, says Rachel Liu, a director at Profile Search & Selection in Singapore. “Some of the hedge funds I’ve worked with recently hired people who had a quant background from a good university, had spent time in private equity, and had then gone into equity research.”

As is special situations expertise

“The markets look pretty challenging all around for Asian hedge funds,” says Amanda Lote, MD of buy-side search firm Lote & Partners in Hong Kong. “The glimmer of light may be some funds adding people on their special situations/credit teams, so that they can position themselves to get access to the lending markets.”

Small Asian firms will hire more grads

Point 72 is hiring more graduates in Asia as part of its new ‘academy’ training programme which starts in June. But some small Asia-based firms will also get in on the act in 2017, recruiting one or two grads for 12-month baptisms of fire, say recruiters. “Each grad shadows an experienced trader and spends about every waking hour with them,” says former investment banker Jay Abeyasinghe, now associate director of financial services at recruiters Morgan McKinley in Singapore. “It’s a fail-quickly situation. If the grad isn’t suited to this boiler-room environment, they’ll learn that from the outset of their career and then can look elsewhere.”

Image credit: Punkbarby, Getty

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