Alarm grows in Hong Kong and Singapore after Morgan Stanley cuts jobs

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Alarm grows in Hong Kong and Singapore after Morgan Stanley cuts jobs

If you thought that the spate of job cuts in Asian equities had run its course, think again. Yet another bank – this time it’s Morgan Stanley – has axed equities roles, and more positions could be in the firing line across the sector this year.

Morgan Stanley has culled about half a dozen mid-level equity sales, trading and research jobs in Asia (including in Hong Kong and Singapore), as part of a global cost-cutting drive, reports Reuters. The US bank has not responded to a request to comment on the layoffs, which come just two months after Nomura trimmed eight people from its Singapore equities research team under a new plan to scale back outside of Japan.

In most job sectors, redundancies on the scale of Morgan Stanley and Nomura’s wouldn’t be particularly alarming. But they follow a three-year period of layoffs in Asian equities, and they suggest the jobs rout isn’t yet over. Deutsche Bank made cuts to its Asian equities team last year, while Credit Suisse culled dozens from its regional equities operations in 2017. Barclays, along with several other banks, trimmed Asian equities jobs in 2016, while Standard Chartered has shuttered its team altogether.

Although equity researchers have been affected by these culls, traders have been hit hardest. “Trading desks are still shrinking in Asia, and ever-increasing automation also continues to lurk in the background,” says Matt Hoyle, a Hong Kong-based trader-turned headhunter.

Banks will continue to rein in costs in their Asian equities teams, because of the impact of automation and volatile markets (regional equities revenues plummeted at most banks in Q4 as Asian markets tanked), says another headhunter. More sporadic job cuts of the MS and Nomura kind are therefore likely over the next 12 months.

A recent report from the Monetary Authority of Singapore suggest the cuts could continue for even longer. It classifies traders (including equities traders) as being at high risk of being displaced by technology. Traders are “susceptible to the impact of automation due to the ease of trade, availability of data and standardisation”.

If you’re a trader hoping to remain in your role, the report recommends being equipped “to trade more complex financial assets and/or diversify across asset classes”, and acquiring additional technology skills (i.e. programming languages) to support the continued rollout of electronic trading platforms.

Meanwhile, if you’ve already lost your Asian equities job this year, you should “either join a very established franchise – such as Citi or JP Morgan – or focus your efforts on the buyside”, says Hoyle.

Image credit: vitranc, Getty

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