IBD exit doesn't exist in HK

Rant for an associate here who has spent years finding exits, exits are mostly non-existent even during the best time in 2021. Just laying out my thoughts in simple bullet points here for anyone who is interested

  • Most of the firms in the region don't hire bankers. Looking at buyer logs etc. of projects I am on. Most of the corp dev guys are not from IBD background. Instead they are usually big 4 or homegrown finance guys who lateralled. On some occasions, the head of corp dev come from IBD but these guys are usually ex-MD who are personally connected to the rich family corporates and was invited to head their business operations. They then built the whole corp dev franchise by hiring internally or from big 4
  • Bankers are too expensive and doesn't signal loyalty to them. This was the direct feedback I got from multiple recruiters which I made to the final stage and discuss comps. I quoted 30-50% cut of base salary (and assumed bonus is 0). I was outright rejected by a few and some pressed for further paycuts. 2 months later, I found on linkedin someone from EY FDD or Accenture got the offer instead.
  • Business functions consider big 4 over bankers. It is for the same reason as above. A 5-year banker makes 18k USD base a month in HK whereas a 5-year FDD manager makes 7k USD a month and check the box with CPA. The hiring folks basically think if they offer you 8k, you are not going to be happy with it and you aren't staying long. Yes, they think for you and reject you when considering candidates. FFS. Nonetheless, the FDD guys probably are more hands on with EBITDA adjustment and financial deep dive than us working on data mining in IBD daily doing crap work
  • There are few acquisitive MNCs with dedicated Asia corp dev team. Most MNCs have very small corp dev team and most do it in US / their HQ country. Few companies are HQed in HK besides Hong Kong corporates who know how to lowball even when it comes to IB fees.  
  • If they hire you, they expect you put in banking hours. There are a few MNCs or local tech companies who can pay (c.USD8k for 5-6 years of experiences and below USD5k for 3-4 years). Many of these are acquisitive guys in the industry with well-known toxic culture. Some explicitly told me they hire ex-IB because "they can tank the hours". You are making corporate pay while continuing IB hours and their key selling point is "you don't need to originate". Don't go there as an Analyst / Associate. Those places are full of VP/D who cannot make it in banking by just putting their body and hours. Enjoy working with people who think stamina and perseverance are their greatest asset.
  • Situation is even worse right now with oversupply. Self-explanatory - the companies that pay are few to begin with and most have shut their doors
  • There are jobs that can pay with decent hours but they are extremely difficult to get, and they are not the exits frequently mentioned here. Such as IR at a fund (IR at corporate pays peanuts), credit risk or IB COO (surprisingly you will get paid double vs your corp dev exit if you can manage to lateral there without experience cut), private bank investment specialist (those guys who do calls explain to UHNW why invest in some PE funds). I have friends who managed to exit to these roles. Personally I spent years trying but it didn't work out for me though
  • MF exits are not easy and many MM funds paycuts while delaying your promotion. Also, enjoy doing your slides without formatting team and data mining without data team

Sorry guys for the rant, just writing the "buyer beware" note here in case anyone thinks IB is the golden career passport after leaving the industry


Based on the most helpful WSO content, it seems like you're expressing frustration about the lack of exit opportunities in Hong Kong for those in Investment Banking Division (IBD). Here are some key points you've mentioned:

  • Many firms in the region don't hire bankers for their corporate development teams. Instead, they prefer individuals from Big 4 or homegrown finance backgrounds.
  • Bankers are often seen as too expensive and not loyal enough. This feedback has come directly from recruiters, even when you've been willing to take a significant pay cut.
  • Business functions often prefer Big 4 employees over bankers due to cost and perceived loyalty.
  • There are few multinational corporations with dedicated Asia corporate development teams. Most have small teams and conduct their corporate development in the US or their home country.
  • If hired, the expectation is often that you will work banking hours for corporate pay. Some companies are known for their toxic culture and expect ex-IB employees to handle the long hours.
  • The current situation is worsened by an oversupply of candidates.
  • There are jobs that offer decent pay and hours, but they are extremely difficult to get. These are not the typical exit opportunities often discussed.
  • Exiting to major funds is not easy, and many mid-market funds offer pay cuts while delaying your promotion.

It sounds like you're in a tough spot, and I understand your frustration. It's important to remember that every career path has its challenges and it's all about finding the right fit for you. Keep exploring different opportunities and don't lose hope.

Sources: What you need to know about IBD in Asia, IBD in Canada following Dutch undergrad?, Q&A: HK IBD

I'm an AI bot trained on the most helpful WSO content across 17+ years.
Most Helpful

Let's be real, PE at least in Asia is a hardcore continuation of IBD analyst stint. You will continue to be the most junior guy doing stuff and most of the time PEs don't loop in advisors for phase 1.

This means you are taking a paycut, doing modeling / data mining / formatting without support from anyone. If someone hates IBD, PE is going to be worse. It is just a dangling carrot to entice analysts with the dreaming partner track. At my bank we have a few returned from boyu/hopu/primavera to sellside and we received a few from BPEA/other MF as well once in a while. Not sure why but bet some of them who lateraled regretted and see themselves having no chance making MD/partner there hence coming back asap.


(Ignore Intern tag, have close friends inside)

GIC supposedly has better WLB, but Temasek (depending on group, in this case it’s Agrifoods, more or less their largest team) is still pretty sweaty.

People expect SWFs to pay well and have WLB, but honest answer is it depends. My friend and his team gets frequent 2/3am nights throughout the week, but of course it’s more chill during the downtimes as well.

I think in the US, PE seems to be the promised land/exit, but in Asia honestly PE shops are sweatier than a lot of banks. I think in Asia the hours tend to be longer as a whole for god knows what reason. MS had their analysts working until 4/5am on the daily…


Can confirm for GIC/Temasek, have heard amongst LP circles that GIC Direct Investments (which co-underwrites large PE/growth transactions, minority equity only) is actually very sweaty because everyone there is basically an ex-banker wanting to do buy side work or ex-direct PE guy who wants to continue doing deals without sourcing since GIC gets shown deals by every large sponsor on the planet. GIC funds team is a lot more relaxed. Temasek's culture is pretty harsh, similar to banking but with somewhat better hours. 

PE in Singapore is a tough gig - if you're lucky enough to be at a large fund, expect to work banking hours for less pay while they dangle the promise of carried interest if/when you get promoted. Smaller funds have better WLB, but substantially worse pay compared to BB IB + upward mobility may not be there given the small teams and key man driven culture of many of these firms. Lots of highly capable folks that join smaller funds find that they're stuck at VP/director level and bouncing around from firm to firm because they can't source deals. Most of the banker-led processes for smaller companies in SEA are for pretty crappy companies, and good companies worth investing in are really fking hard to buy because 1. they're family owned and the family refuses to sell or 2. you have to be very well-connected both politically and in the business circles to cook good deals for some time before pulling the trigger.

Anyone considering the IB -- PE route in Singapore should tread very carefully... often the best PE firms in the region are founded by exceedingly well-connected folks who already come from money and influence. Singapore is a lot more like its SEA peers in this aspect


Yes quite a number, though quite a number of SEA funds are basically zombies because they can't raise money. The more established and stable regional ones (Quadria, Southern Capital, Dymon Asia, KV Asia, Navis, etc.) pay significantly below BB IB pay on both base and bonus - expect a 30-50% pay cut on total comp, with hours and culture also highly variable. Even for the megafunds, expect a 10-20% haircut on base and bonus as well. A lot of the regional funds staff out of KL/Jakarta/Thailand as well where it's cheaper to pay staff and to get native Bahasa/Thai speakers.

The large guys like BPEA/CVC/TPG hire at most 1-2 juniors a year. Turnover is low, everyone is trying to get in, so exit options are really scarce in Singapore in terms of PE. Lots of IB folks are getting killed on hours but find it hard to give up the significantly above market pay they're getting, so lots of people stay on but continue to be miserable


Anyone that has went through such a situation able to comment regarding SG exits?

Accepted a BB IB summer offer in SG (think JP/MS/GS). My understanding through talking with bankers from HK and SG is that SG seems to be sweatier where analysts lead deal processes - a scene not witnessed in HK. In that case, genuinely curious on why SG exits are trashier compared to HK

Also, any advice on how to potentially get better exit ops? Try to lateral to HK/LDN? Or pursue an MBA in USA and look for opportunities there? 


Tough though. Tried exiting to things like credit risk, COO or even PB investment counsellor / AM IR or sales team

Most of these shops won't even give you an interview

Some will tell you networking is required but in reality, finding someone who works in that team is difficult and network everywhere every time is just like shooting into the dark

Strategy teams mostly consider ex-MBB and corp dev teams are way smaller with lower comp

In fact, I think MBB has a way easier time finding exits as they get strategy roles (which are more common than corp dev) and recruiters' attention for general corporate functions. Their lower salary also helps them convincing their interest moving to corporate (vs bankers who apply for corporate are mostly seen as seeking a temporary job before jumping to somewhere with better comp) 


ignore the title but have turned down HK BB SA offers before and know many family friends that are clients.

The fundamental difference is that Chinese firms just don't care much for M&A or inorganic growth in general, you can see this by how difficult it is for non-unicorn startups to exit and general poor performance of venture funds. Maybe its'a culture issue - most chinese companies are new and still owned by the founder and will continue to be a family business, they just don't think about M&A. This pretty much eliminates corpdev and also kills a bunch of PEs. I'm sure you worked on much more ECM or DCM type function vs M&A as we think IBD does in the US.

I actually have seen a good amount of IBD to MBB transitions. I def would argue MBB exit is also tough, but somewhat better than IBD.

Daddy Xi's genius HK/Foreign/Econ policies def didn't help.


HAHA, on point for sure. There's recent news on how SG's IB fees are down 20% from 2022 (decade low), and the champion in terms of fees is DBS (local SG bank) at 13% of the overall fee pool.


MBB isn't bad but currently MBB basically just halted their recruitment pipeline. And tbh, MBB pays significantly lower than IB

Analyst is equivalent to consultant at Bain or associate at Mck, and an associate is paid well above an EM or equivalent at MBB

For a fresh grad from uni, I guess you can justify by taking their MBA subsidy (one won't be able to find a decently comped job exiting in 2 years time anyway)

But for an ex-banker, that paycut is just too heavy plus MBB work is also quite brutal when it comes to data mining and slides (100 pages of strategy paper full of charts is more intense than IB RFP imo)


OP - when you're looking for exits what exactly are you looking for? 

Are you asking for IB pay but less hours? I don't think that exists in Hong Kong nor in the UK / the US (but correct me if I'm wrong). 


I was asking for 60k salary corp dev or strategy position with 4 yoe, among 5 companies I made to final, only 1 can offer that and the other 4 asked for further cut or outright rejection citing they can offer nothing close to it.

I hated intense modeling or ppt for 16 hours a day so never consider PE.

I also applied roles like fp&a, pb or corporate banking relationship management, research associate, credit risk, coo, fof etc. over 100 jobs.

I did not receive any interview and never reached out to me on salary

I also applied Nuveen re investing and got interview with a few. But I was told by HR while feedback is positive, they cannot offer a senior position to someone with no re experience. And paying 25-30k to me would be unfairly lowball, so they appreciated my interest and hope for the best - team actually willing to speak with me further and confirmed this is the reason

I have colleagues exited to webank corp dev for 20-30k rmb with 3 yoe or some funds like phoenix with 27k hkd for 2y exp. So I am not surprised the outside opportunities pay lower to bankers than someone with equivalent experience in commercial banking / bo / big 4


Most HFs don't consider IBD candidates except for a very handful ones which would only look at you if you are from GS MS JPM. Most will look at ex-S&T (and yes, even sales is better than IBD for quite many funds who are short term and momentum focused punters). There are also many small HF who would hire people from random background (risk, factset analytics, etc.) because those people are asking below 20k HKD a month and they are willing to hustle for those jobs.

For those that consider IBD, you will be competing against BB ER analysts or anyone in PE who are being worked to death by their bosses and looking for fast paced go home early HF jobs.

I believe HKSTP pays so low that there was someone who recently took 90k HKD pay to move to a CD role with ~15 yoe. For other VC, you can take a look at shops like Monk's Hill, Arbor, Mind Works, etc. None of them really hire bankers, most of them recruit from personal connections with people who hang out at tech or startup events and willing to start from a low pay (you won't be able to live on your own in HK as a foreigner with that salary if you are in your first few years of career). It is dominated by people from the non-target, non-IBD background who tried a few random startups in product and marketing, and schmoozed well enough with the venture guys. Heard Hendale gave offer to one of my colleagues and it is 40k for 5 years of BB IBD experience joining as an analyst. Best bet would be joining HK family offices which pays 60-80k HKD a month with 5-7 yoe and work for 60 hours a week tbh

Other readers can correct me if I am wrong but this is my observation.


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