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Indian bankers in Singapore quit for buyside, fintech

As Indian dealmaking booms, investment banks in Singapore are facing an uphill battle to hire India coverage bankers.

For the first nine months of 2022 foreign banks earned US$231m in merger and acquisition fees from India, compared to US$204m earned in China, according to recently available data from Dealogic.

The rise of Indian dealmaking globally is fuelling demand for India-coverage investment bankers in Singapore. But banks are finding it hard to hire, partly because the increase in dealmaking is a relatively new phenomenon, so the talent pool is small, unlike in private banking, a sector that has long serviced Indian clients from Singapore.

Moreover, some Singapore-based Indian finance professionals don’t want to work in the stressful environment of an investment bank.

Many have already exited banking in recent years for opportunities at fintech start-ups and crypto-currency firms. “They are not really inclined to go back to the investment banking scene,” says Edward Park, associate director of financial services at Cornerstone Global Partners in Singapore.

Those who do work in investment banking are so sought after that they can make frequent job moves. For example, Park says he recently placed one India-coverage candidate with a Japanese bank in Singapore only for that person to leave a short time later. “He didn’t last more than a year and a half, and that’s because he was very demanded in the market and he decided to go to a private equity firm instead,” says Park.

Underscoring the demand for India experts, two former Bank of Singapore executives, Harsh Vardhan Rungta and Saurabh Rathi, were hired last July to head up the Singapore-based single-family office of the Bangur family, the owners of Graphite India.

Park says the trend of late has been for India experts to head for opportunities in private equity or venture capital. “These guys prefer to be on the buy side instead of the sell side,” he says, adding that the compensation packages offered are usually a major drawing card.

Many believe India will continue to be a driver of international deal-making activity this year, as China turns more to its domestic banks under guidance from Beijing. “We need markets like China and India from the Singapore perspective to ride through the recession that might be happening soon,” says Park.

Photo by Julien de Salaberry on Unsplas

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