Many financial institutions are gearing up their staffing as they start to roll out their African operations. These include banks, stockbrokers and others. African Capital Markets News interviewed Frank Behrendt, of recruiter Clement May (http://www.clementmay.com), on the trends and the opportunities.
ACMN: Do you think Africa is a growing opportunity?
FB: I had spent 3 years in Singapore recruiting bankers for Asia. Upon my return to the UK I realised that Africa is on the move, and decided to get involved. That was March 2010. At Clement May we have built a good network of bankers – on the continent and in the hubs of London, New York, Johannesburg and Hong Kong (and Moscow) – who are focussing on Africa.
There is a great need for real talent in the African banking sector, and although there are some recruitment firms that focus on Africa, it is a very underdeveloped market in terms of quality recruitment firms (as always, the recruitment sector follows the banking sector in that regard). It has therefore been relatively straightforward to establish ourselves as an African specialist.
ACMN: What are the changing trends in African investing?
FB: Up until last year, the active players in the secondary markets of Sub-Saharan Africa were mainly boutiques. That has changed. More and more international “bulge bracket” banks are eyeing up Africa and including it in their growth strategies. Already counting some of these banks as our clients in Europe and Asia, this puts us in a strong position to address their growth plans and further extend our reach into Africa.
ACMN: Is a lot of new market infrastructure being built? Are new fields of activity opening up?
FB: Stock exchanges on the African continent are improving their services through collaboration with the big international exchanges and improved technology. Local banks are commanding a bigger portion of the volume going through the system and it seems this development is on the rise. As international bulge bracket interest in Africa is on the rise, the share in market volume that these banks can win is dwindling due to the rise of local players.
Global banks are taking a very active interest across disciplines. While the primary markets have gained in strength over the last number of years, the real evidence of increased activity is in the secondary markets. Liquidity has improved immensely over the last year or so and trading in African equities has also increased significantly, both on the ground in Sub-Saharan Africa and around the world.
ACMN: What do you see of Hedge Funds/institutional investors?
FB: More and more Hedge Funds focus on SSA. More international Asset Managers increase the portion of funds invested in SSA. More local fund houses are opening up. The appetite for SSA equities is growing exponentially as a result.
ACMN: Is there a marked increase in the number of jobs available?
FB: Definitely, yes! As the international bulge bracket banks are expanding their businesses, jobs are available on the ground and in the hubs (i.e. Johannesburg, London, Hong Kong and New York). This in turn is spurring greater hiring activity by local firms as well, and so on. Jobs in secondary markets are growing more than primary markets headcounts.
ACMN: What sort of jobs are available?
FB: Private equity jobs are and have through the last 5 years been the most abundant. M&A and corporate finance jobs have been pretty constant over the last few years, but a new surge is ongoing. In secondary markets, research teams are being built both on the ground across SSA and also in the hubs (as above). Sales and execution teams are in the pipeline. I anticipate there being a surge in Sales, Sales Trading and Trading hires in mid-2011. Most of these jobs will be based in London, Johannesburg and New York servicing the international institutional client base. But there are also many headcount needed for positions on the ground in SSA. Of these, most are in Nigeria, then Kenya.
ACMN: Is it hard to find the right people for the jobs?
FB: Not too hard. There is a huge community of very well-educated Africans around the world. Whereas, only a couple of years ago, very few of them would consider a return to their home country, these days, more and more are actively seeking to return, in order to contribute to society with their education and experience. This is obviously connected to the increased activity in the banking sector, and the remuneration packages now available.
ACMN: Are the jobs mostly being filled by Africans?
FB: The banks are mostly looking for natives of the country in which the hiring is taking place. Only for very senior positions will foreign candidates be considered. This does not stem from immigration policy only (although that can also be a consideration as visas become harder to obtain), but also from a desire to have fully culturally assimilated staff in place. Needless to say, jobs in the hubs of London, New York and others focussing on SSA are being filled by candidates from across the spectrum and regardless of nationality. I have seen quite a few bankers on Asian desks in London shift their focus to Africa.
ACMN: What skills/experience do job applicants require?
FB: Some sort of degree, preferably from an international university. MBAs are even more desirable (and a lot of professionals are taking this to heart). At least 3 years’ work experience with an international bank. As banking in Africa is still relatively vanilla and functions often overlap, specific skill sets are not as important as the desire to return home and contribute. I have seen examples of people hired for equity research, although their entire work history was in M&A etc.