John Mullally
John Mullally: CFA preferred but not a must-have for sales

China’s efforts to liberalise its currency and open its capital markets are also creating job opportunities for people in the asset management industry.

This is particularly true of sales and investment management, recruiters say.

On the institutional side, investors such as the China Investment Corporation, the world’s fourth largest sovereign wealth fund, as well as the National Council for Social Security Fund, are diversifying offshore and increasingly outsourcing their portfolios to external managers.

This is boosting the potential demand for China-focused sales positions, says John Mullally, Hong Kong-based associate director of banking and financial services at recruitment group Robert Walters.

Also upbeat is Charity Ip, a Hong Kong-based consultant at Morgan McKinley who specialises in recruiting for asset management, private banking, private equity and hedge fund positions in Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan.

Ms Ip says that China-focused hirings in the asset management industry have been on the increase recently, if not dramatically.

This is partly because the mutual recognition of funds by Hong Kong and China is seen as a potential driver of expansion rather than an opportunity that deserves immediate action.

The initiative, which is still awaiting approval from China, would allow Hong Kong-domiciled and authorised funds to be sold into China and vice versa.

Sales positions in general have been more in demand and offer better prospects in terms of remuneration than other jobs in the fund management sector in Asia, especially in Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan and South Korea, Ms Ip says.

Sales and marketing have long been the dominant area in Hong Kong.

In 2012, some three-quarters of the territory’s 32,188 fund management employees were engaged in sales and marketing, according to the latest available data from the Securities and Futures Commission of Hong Kong.

Alexa Lam, deputy chief executive of the SFC, told a conference in December that the regulator had been working on strengthening the market’s portfolio management and fund administration capabilities.

The Hong Kong-China mutual recognition initiative is part of that drive.

Both Mr Mullally and Ms Ip say they are positive about the growth in portfolio management positions, not just in Hong Kong but across the region.

In terms of specific asset classes, fixed income appears to be the fastest growing in Asia at the moment.

Significant recruitment has taken place in the fixed-income space in recent months, says Chris Mead, regional director for Singapore and Malaysia at recruitment firm Hays.

Meanwhile, Marc Baloch, director of the financial services practice at Harvey Nash Executive Search Asia Pacific, says that portfolio managers who are well versed in multi-asset strategies and private equity will find more opportunities in the region.

In terms of qualifications, a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation, though preferred, is “certainly not a must-have” for sales-related positions, says Mr Mullally, noting that such roles would be more relationship-driven.

For positions associated with portfolio management, companies would typically favour candidates with good quantitative skills and an aptitude for the industry that can be demonstrated through their own portfolio, Mr Mead says.

“In addition to a good qualitative degree from a reputable university, Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst and CFA qualifications are an advantage,” he says.

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