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How to get a private equity job in Hong Kong

Everyone wants to get into private equity.

The reasons are obvious. The working hours are better than banking (although not as great as a hedge fund), and the pay ranges from “banking” to “jaw dropping” (courtesy of carried interest). The downside? Competition is intense.

The “traditional” route into a private equity fund in London or New York is well known – a few years in an investment bank, a top MBA, and boom. Recently, however, Blackstone started a graduate scheme – and at the London School of Economic’s Alternative Investment Conference earlier this year, a top PE partner suggested consulting as a route in in Europe.

How about Hong Kong? Bethan Howell, head of Selby Jennings Hong Kong, says the process is similar, although there are some nuances.

Education is the big one for private equity in Hong Kong – especially if you want to work in healthcare investing. “Our clients look for intensive sector specific knowledge and education related to the healthcare space,” Bethan says. Healthcare funds “often require PhD level” hires. Technology funds also like to hire people who know about tech.

Beyond healthcare, it's more about educational calibre.  Although “strong sector specific knowledge” is still expected, there is a huge emphasis on where someone gets their degree from. “A huge amount of emphasis [is on] education standard,” Bethan says, even when the degree isn’t directly related to the area of expertise.

With PE funds such as Warburg Pincus pivoting more towards mainland China, cultural understanding also takes precedence. Whilst English and Cantonese were once the only requirements for the industry (HK funds being primarily interested in the Bay area), opportunities in the rest of China have made knowledge of Mandarin obligatory. “Native-level Mandarin,” Bethan says. “Ideally, born and raised in China.”

Opportunities are rife. “Junior roles are reoccurring each year,” Bethan says, and the multiple boutiques borne of spin-offs (such as Standard Chartered’s former private equity arm) are hiring too.

Although megafunds, which have assets in the tens of billions, once “monopolised” the market for talent, “the landscape is more diversified” than it used to be, Bethan notes. The emergence of Renminbi funds such as Hony Capital as well as dual-currency funds have broadened the industry.

The biggest opportunities, however, might not come from where you expect them. Bethan says the hiring market for Hong Kong secondaries is “hot,” and says bankers who would normally be looking for direct PE exit routes would likely “now be open to secondaries as well.”

Secondaries are funds that buy a private equity investment before it’s realised at the end of its life cycle for whatever reason. A lot of private equity firms run funds for secondaries, including Blackstone and Carlyle.

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Have a confidential story, tip, or comment you’d like to share? Contact: Zeno.Toulon@efinancialcareers.com in the first instance.

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AUTHORZeno Toulon

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