I was in a bar with a friend last week and we got talking to a stock trader, recently arrived from the US. He was one of many casualties from the Bear Stearns meltdown and had decided to look for a job in Asia. The premise seems logical enough: If funds are flowing into Asia for lack of investment opportunities in the West, surely investment professionals will follow?
Now that Lehman Brothers has collapsed, as many as 25,000 people will join the job market – even more if you factor in the inevitable downsizing that will come with Bank of America’s acquisition of Merrill Lynch. A fair number of these may follow in the footsteps of this former Bear Stearns trader and end up in Hong Kong. Assuming Hong Kong’s financial community is able to accommodate the new arrivals (and that’s debatable), I have two questions:
1) What does it mean for the property market? Apparently the primary market is weakening, which may in part be due to mainland investors who splashed out on new condos, but have now backtracked in response to weakness in the mainland property and stock markets. However, recent reports have been more positive about the rental market – and they might become even more positive if hordes of investment bankers show up.
2) How long before we see “Lehman exiles now in Asia”-style Facebook groups?