Barclays Capital is on a hiring drive in Asia as it aims to increase its revenues in the region by up to three times current levels by 2012. The main focus is to expand the bank's equity business to complement an already strong presence in fixed income, commodities and foreign exchange.
"Building our cash equities business in the region is a priority," Kevin Burke, head of all product distribution at Barclays Capital, told FinanceAsia. But, he is looking for "quality, not quantity" with an emphasis on luring senior talent from within Asia-Pacific.
Hiring more bodies in Hong Kong is his first objective, and he has plans to increase the headcount in India next. Most of the bank's regional sales people are based in Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore. It also has onshore sales and trading capabilities in India, Korea and Taiwan, and traders in Australia.
Recent prominent appointments include Sigurbjörn "Siggi" Thorkelsson, who has joined as head of Asia-Pacific equities after leaving Nomura in early March, and Mark Sandeford, who will be responsible for cash equities trading across all Asia ex-Japan markets, including Australia and India. He will be based in Hong Kong, and joins from CQS in London.
Also, Jeremy Norris has joined from CLSA in Hong Kong, where he was global head of equities trading. At Barclays he will be responsible for sales trading and execution across all of Asia ex-Japan.
Burke pointed to Barclays' experience in Europe, where it has built up an equities distribution operation almost from scratch, and to its North American fixed-income franchise, which has achieved a more than 15% share of market volumes following Barclays' acquisition of Lehman Brothers' business. In Tokyo, Barclays hired 100 new people across sales and trading in the fourth quarter of 2008.
"But competition is returning, so staff retention is very important," added Burke.
Burke, who joined Barclays from Credit Suisse in 2004, is in charge of regional distribution of fixed-income, credit, commodities, derivatives, structured products, e-commerce, foreign exchange and equities. As he said, Barclays has "an integrated product platform. Sales are not siloed".
His strategy is to distribute both regional and international equities across different regions and time zones. Barclays boasts an extensive Asian client list that includes central banks, sovereign wealth funds, insurance companies, corporates, pension funds, hedge funds and international cash managers with local offices. It also structures products for the retail outlets of other international banks.
Most importantly, said Burke, "Barclays has senior relationships with leading funds in the region". Volumes are key to expanding the business, and he is confident that the bank's traders will be "supportive".