It’s not a great time to look for a Hong Kong hedge fund job

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Front-office recruitment in the Hong Kong hedge fund sector is down year-on-year, say recruiters in the city, adding that many large funds have already hit their ideal headcounts. The decline comes as the local hedge fund sector suffered its biggest quarterly outflow since the 2008 financial crisis.

One buy-side recruiter, who asked not to be named, says he is handling about 15% to 20% fewer vacancies than 12 months ago. Trader turned-headhunter Matt Hoyle, adds that hedge fund hiring is “slightly down” on last year, partly because “all the big players already have the people they need”.

The top-five Hong Kong hedge funds by 2018 assets under management are Eastspring Investments, Och-Ziff Capital Management, Man Investments, Capula Investment Management, and GAM Fund Management. “The large funds in Hong Kong are always on the lookout for talent and can still write big cheques if needed, but this year they’re definitely in less of a hurry to hire,” says Will Tan, managing partner at headhunters Principle Partners. “They know who they like and will stay in touch with them until the time is right,” he adds.

Hoyle also blamed the decline in hiring on there being “fewer new small startups” wanting to build a core workforce. It’s been a bad few months for nascent Hong Kong funds. Net redemptions across the Hong Kong hedge fund industry came to about US$1bn in the third quarter, the highest level since Q2 2009, in the wake of the financial crisis, according to data from Eurekahedge. These outflows were driven by small and medium-sized hedge funds managing US$500m or less.

However, hedge fund recruiters say the job market – while down on last year – is far from being in dire straits and hasn’t yet been greatly impacted by Hong Kong’s ongoing civil unrest. “Some funds in Hong Kong have told me they’re open to employees requesting relocations to Singapore – if it works from a business perspective and they have an office there,” says Tan. “But I haven’t seen people actually leave. If you’re working in equities rather than macro at a hedge fund in Asia, Hong Kong is the place to be, and that acts as a huge deterrent to moving to Singapore,” he adds.

Moreover, despite the withdrawals noted by Eurekahedge, total hedge fund assets in Hong Kong increased US$6.9bn in the first nine months to reach a record high of $92.1bn, mostly driven by fund performance rather than inflows. “The political crisis in Hong Kong is yet to pose any meaningful threat,” Eurekahedge analyst Mohammad Hassan told Bloomberg. “The opportunity and access that managers based in Hong Kong provide to Chinese onshore markets and to the broader region as a whole is unlikely to be eclipsed in the near term unless things really spiral out of control.”

Image credit: Drew Graham, Unsplash

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