Banker’s thoughts on Window of Hiring Opportunity [16 Feb 2011] – WS

[Welcome WS to Words of Wisdom! WS is passionate about guiding aspiring financial professionals into the harsh world of finance. He is currently the regional head of ASEAN financials at a global bank.

Last year, Scholars' Village invited WS to speak at SMU about the finance industry and he mentioned about floodgates of hiring opening every few years. Recently, Yo-man was pondering over hiring windows and decided to discuss it with WS.

Yo-man: I am a product of the 2006/2007 window of opportunity for newbies (I was there at the right time, after preparing myself well from 2005-06); I recall you mentioned you were from the 2000/01 window (after 97/98 currency crisis in Asia)? Was there another window of opportunity anytime from 2000 to 2005?

I do have some comments below on the current window of opportunity for newbies (, and my personal guess is: this current window of opportunity for newbies will close by 2013 -- like to hear your personal thoughts too, if possible.

Wish everybody a prosperous Year of the Rabbit! ]


Happy Year of the Rabbit.

The major floodgates took place in:

a) 1999/2000 – during the internet craze that gave the impression that the market could continue to balloon. Me along with a bunch of people benefited from this cycle.

b) 2006/07 period – due to a flurry of hedge funds deciding to open shop in Singapore. This one was quite powerful in financial hubs like HK, London, NYC and Singapore.

Don’t think there were any other dates that are qualified to be termed as floodgates.

2001-03 was a very tough times for the investment community as Asia suffered one too many setbacks characterised by 2001 economic downturn and 9/11 WTC bombing and early 2003 SARS epidemic.

Things started to recover from May 2003 when SARS started to disappear. Asian stock markets started to rebound and continue to do reasonably well. But, the floodgates did not open as the broking industry was consolidating with various brokers merging. Various regional brokers like WI CARR, DKW and etc started to disappear or lose their lustre.

In my view, the hiring market is still quite tough. Bosses like to hire the experienced people.

I do not know when the floodgates will open up again and neither is it easy to time the market. If approached by candidates, i would tell them to get prepared at all times. The opportunity may be there but if one is not well prepared for it, it will slip by. Even if the floodgates open up, competition is always very keen and there is no guarantee that one can get in so easily.

Every now and then, there will be one or two small opportunity. Candidates should try to get into a small firm first and use that as the platform to leapfrog to a bigger platform. They should not expect themselves to join global franchises like JPM, GS and CS from the outset. Start from an easy platform could lengthen their career life and give them the room to build up their confidence before climbing to a bigger platform. While paper qualification is important, aspiring candidates should get themselves prepared mentally too. It’s tough to be on the sell side for the first three years – tough bosses, not so friendly colleagues (sometimes) and etc. It’s a constant race and one needs to have a certain mindset/mentality to do well. The dropout rate for my batch is about 50%.

Ask candidates to network more. A lot of times, we recruit via the word of mouth.



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