By Alison Tudor
As investment banks shed staff across Asia, a few firms are taking the opportunity to grow in the region.
“This is a good time to pick up market share,” Cantor Fitzgerald & Co.’s global chief executive officer Shawn P. Matthews said in an interview, saying the cost of hiring talent in Asia has fallen over the past year.
As a private partnership, he said, New York-based Cantor has the financial strength to support its Asian expansion over the next three to five years. The financial-services firm expects in short order to have 15 to 20 people trading Japanese equities, mainly out of Hong Kong. Cantor is also making some more senior hires and taking with potential joint-venture partners in China.
Cantor said earlier this month announced the hiring of Saurav Chatterjee as a managing director to lead expansion of its business trading Japanese equities. He was previously an executive director at Morgan Stanley.
State-backed Russian investment bank VTB Capital is also hiring.
“We see opportunity intermediating the flows between Asia and Russia as well as financing Asian companies via high-yield, investment-grade debt or principal finance at a time when capacity is being withdrawn from the market,” said Damian Chunilal, VTB Capital’s chief executive for Asia, who is looking to grow his team in the region this year. “Over time we’ll look to develop onshore banking platforms in Shanghai and Delhi.”
But Mr. Chunilal is picking his battleground carefully.
“We’re not going yet to build aggressively in equities, where it is increasingly competitive, margins are falling and driven by electronic trading,” he said. “The economics just don’t look that attractive at the moment.”
The bit of hiring notwithstanding, despondency is growing among bankers, watching their opportunities shrink as banks across Asia lay off staff.
“Many unemployed bankers do not even expect open roles at hiring banks anymore,” said Mark Pink, founder and head of TMJ NetSearch, a financial-recruitment firm headquartered in Tokyo. “They do not see anybody making money, so they do not think any firm is hiring.”