Sales & Trading in Asia - GENERAL

I was wondering about Sales & Trading in Asia. My situation is a bit unique ...

I worked at Bear for around a year before they went down, in Risk Mgmt. Moved to an M&A Boutique in SF for about 1.5 years after that before quitting ...

Currently i'm an entrepreneur based in Seoul. I want to break back into the industry, in Sales & Trading, but I specifically want to be located somewhere in Asia for personal reasons.

Many of my friends and associates have told me "you can do S&T any place, you don't have to know the local language" ... and I just want to corroborate if this is actually true.

I know from college recruiting that, for example, you don't need to speak Japanese to work in S&T in Japan. I'm pretty sure the same applies for HK.

Does the same apply for other countries in Asia? Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, etc?
Also, what's the best way to tap into regional analyst / associate programs for those who aren't currently in university??

Any information would be appreciated.


Well for trading you "may" not need to speak local languages but for sales and junior positions I am pretty sure they prefer candidates with local knowledge due to client coverage. What's wrong with Seoul anyway?

Best Response

It is not clear to me at all why you want to do S&T. Your profile looks a lot more like an IBD type.

You're going to have a pretty tough time short of connections/MBA/MFE. You'd need to present a compelling case for why your profile merits attention over that of someone who is fresh from university.

For each country in terms of language skills: HK& Singapore: English only is fine Taiwan: absolute fluency in Mandarin is required Korea: absolute fluency in Korean is required Tokyo: English only for trading, Japanese for sales

Try to get your face and resume in front of some people with hiring power on a personal basis. HR is not in the business of putting profiles like yours in front of MDs, as a general rule.


if you would check the carrer homepages of the respective banks, you would see that most of them required local language skills for S&T positions. even in Singapore and HK - there might be expections though... good luck.

... singapore and HK rock!


Most popular stocks in Asia include rice manufacturers (and of course affiliated industries such as chopsticks, plastic bowls, those hooks to hang dead chickens etc). Oh and massage oil

source: own experience in Chinatown

Moving tonnes of product. Making fat stacks.

1 - In HK they usually want you to start whenever you can since they really need people. The standard is July I think but if you graduate in Dec they may ask you to start as soon as Jan. It's okay to tell them no b/c I've had friends do that (she said she'll start in Apr instead and traveled the world in those 3 months).

2 - Product-wise, equities is more locally focused (you trade mostly Asia, obviously). In FX there's more EM focus but there's traders who trade G7 specifically still, so in that sense FICC is more global. Client-wise, equities is very international since many western firms want to access asian stock markets... So I'm not really answering the question here but I guess I don't really understand the question.....

3 - Which derivs market (fixed income? equities?) and what do you mean by "how large of a presence"... How would you quantify that......

I don't accept sacrifices and I don't make them. ... If ever the pleasure of one has to be bought by the pain of the other, there better be no trade at all. A trade by which one gains and the other loses is a fraud.

Ahh thanks for your response, I was thinking of having some time to travel and do stuff I probably will not get another chance to before starting full time, just like some of your friends.

Sorry for making my questions a bit vague, consider my circumstance:

  • I'm planning for a long term career in BB S&T and am curious as to which "area" may be best long terms within asia. I know equities is very strong in asia, but in the big picture, FICC, FX and derivatives seem more interesting and more profitable.

If one were in this situation (long term career in BB S&T HK), would one aim for a desk in equities, FICC, FX or derivatives?


I agree with edtkh...if u r not locals, u r facing some serious disadvantage w/o language skills...

ex. how u gonna talk to salesperson or communicate w/ other traders when they dont speak English very well.. u think u can explain things clearly in that short amount of time during a trade?

on top of that, immigration law in China/HK require the firm foreign or domestic to hire local talents first, unless the position cannot be filled locally, u wont be able to get a visa...(MIT and Harvard educated locals are not uncommon)

do u think in this economy w/ so many laid off talents, especially in HK, u can find an opening?

That being said, I think u can try but be aware the risk


aceman has got a point if you're talking about senior hires with a proven track record.

However, bearing in mind the OP plans to enter a graduate program at the entry-level (regardless of it being analyst/associate) with little/no experience, it's no exaggeration to suggest the odds are stacked against you (nothing is impossible of course, but you get the drift)...


1) On the trading floor in HK, english is the predominannt language for trades, canotnese and mandarin only spoken on a social level

2) As for work permit.. thats the easiest part to sort out; so dont worry aout it. As long as you secure the job and it pays u above a threshold, u have it in the bag.

I agree with Edtkh that the environment now makes it extremely difficult to land a job since the street (even inhk) is full of unemployed bankers and S&T personnel who would be able to one up you soley because they have experience.

But hell.. don't know till you try i believe


If you can't read or write in Mandarin, chances are you're not as fluent as you think you are in Mandarin. Aim for Hong Kong. Mainland is very difficult for non-natives to break in (in particular entry level positions), although I do have an American friend working at a PE firm in Shanghai.


Lots of back and forth about this. Lots of places ask for fluent speakers of Mandarin and English because they can. These top places can just hire Mainland kids who went to HK Unis (who may also have different ideas of what a nice paycheck looks like) and call it a day. This means opportunities for overseas are decreasing a bit because of the huge education bubble here.

That being said you still have a shot. Realize that people have different definitions of "fluent". Generally, unless the person is an absolute rockstar, fluent means "good enough to get the job done without causing huge problems". I say go for it, my friend and see what happens.


For S&T it varies from desk to desk. When applying, it will be helpful to list Mandarin proficiency, but ultimately it is unlikely you'll use it at the desk for work (though maybe for socializing, etc.). From my experience this is the case for both sales and trading at BBs in HK, but again, each desk may be different.

For IBD, Mandarin skill is much more critical as you will be largely working with clients from Mainland China.


I guess it really depends on firms in terms of organization of trading desks in Asia-Pacific regions. HK is definitely a hub for equity and debts market in non-Japan Asia but Singapore has bigger FX and commodities desks. Also note that debts floating around HK and Singapore desks are usuaully dollar denominated bonds. HK and Singapore are also center of derivatives trading of all asset classes in APAC region. CNY, KRW, TWD all local currency bonds are traded in Shanghai, Seoul or Taipei desks respectively. about the operation size... HKs and Singapore are emerging but nothing like new york or london yet... I interned at one of BB's s&t division this summer(not summer analyst thou) and looked at their operation info... London office example has 4 times more MDs than HK or Singapore office does... I used number of MDs as a parameter because its barometer of important shits happening there... And did you ever see any ib office occupying a whole big building in HK or Singapore??? Almost all Ib offices gathered in cheung kong center, HK IFC, 1 Raffles Quay Singapore... Goldman is the biggest in HK but still only occupy 9 floors or Cheung Kong Center.. And look at gigantic skyscrapper headquarters of New York or London...
So Asia-Pacific recruiting is not all that easy I guess.. I am also applying as summer analyst this year.. wish u good luck


From what I understand, yes HK is definitely smaller than NYC. But you gotta work with more senior people! Less hierarchical is the term used by those Asia teams. Scope of trading: it really depends on which firms. From what I have heard in info session some firms basically put everything in HK while some firms have larger operation in SG. China business is almost a must for HK's team. That's why you need to know Mandarin for Sales position. Cantonese too. I would say China's fixed incomes market is developing, the reason why it is so slow is because you have to have the QFII license to do business and you have quotas on how much you could trade. but MacDonald just issued its first Yuan- denominated bonds right? And GS and Nomura are betting the RMB will appreciate faster this year. So I would say things are looking good.

Hey guys,

I was looking around the forum but couldn't find too much information about this particular subject. I was wondering if anyone could help out:

how exactly does S&T in Hong Kong differ from S&T in NYC? What is the scope of their trading? For example, is it normal for HK sales and traders to delve into China's underdeveloped fixed income markets?

Thanks for the advice ahead of time!

What's an "HK effect"?
is there a similar "hk effect" in s&t when you work there? i.e to which extent do the hours in hk s&t differ from the usual 11-13h days with free weekends in london?
- Bulls make money. Bears make money. Pigs get slaughtered. - The harder you work, the luckier you become. - I believe in the "Golden Rule": the man with the gold rules.

Maybe where a bunch of Tiger-mother-raised Asians get together and all determine to outwork each other and all put in 26-hour days 8 days a week.

I am permanently behind on PMs, it's not personal.

This is bs... At least where I am only us interns work 14+ hrs on a regular basis. A lot of people came here from NY or London so they go by their hours that they had from before.

For equities trading around 7 am, Salestrading & Equity sales around 6 - 630; FICC trading desks get in around 6 - 630, FX sales around the same. Most of these groups will be gone after working 12 hrs, analyst may stay longer, although when there's deals going on people can easily stay till the AM.

Ironically regional market sales get in teh latest and that's the most local group (I mean local as opposed to international/diverse)... They get in 830 - 9 am and get out around 7 - 8...

So while I've definitely heard that there's more of a emphasis on "face time" in HK, 1) it really depends on your desk, and 2) it's not as bad as people make it sound...

I don't accept sacrifices and I don't make them. ... If ever the pleasure of one has to be bought by the pain of the other, there better be no trade at all. A trade by which one gains and the other loses is a fraud.

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