Banking & Financial Services
The banking sector in Asia has become increasingly sophisticated; banks in Hong Kong have developed derivatives and structured products legal teams to rival their counterparts in the London market, and recent years have seen banks in Singapore moving away from vanilla products into sectors that were traditionally dealt with by their Hong Kong counterparts. Tokyo is a strong hub for capital markets and the international banks there also have derivatives teams. Most banks base their equity derivatives teams in Hong Kong and their commodity derivatives teams in Singapore. 2011 has seen some banks move equity derivatives lawyers to Singapore but Hong Kong remains the hub. Singapore has always been a strong market for trade and energy related business on the banking side and subsequently the demand for trade finance and commodities lawyers is strong. Banks in Singapore especially are seeking to build up their derivatives legal teams although the growth in this area was mainly in 2010 and the first half of 2011.
The latter part of 2011 has seen increasing caution enter the hiring practices of most international investment banks through Asia and hiring activity has slowed down while they await the outcome of capital requirement talks in Europe and the US. Therefore, despite a reasonably healthy market, the mood is that of restraint rather than growth. Private banks are on a more even keel as their market sector (i.e. High net worth individuals) have not seen a significant dent in their fortunes, and hedge funds and private equity groups are doing good business, especially in Singapore which is attractive because of its light touch regulation. The insurance market in Singapore is also buoyant and major insurers are confident that 2012 will be a good year. Tokyo has seen attrition from its international banks as senior individuals chose to relocate their families to locales which they see as being safer, which has consequently opened up opportunities for top-class lawyers wishing to move there.