(Bloomberg News) On May 26 last year, amid the gold lighting and $60 entrees at a restaurant in Hong Kong's Central entertainment district, Jason Boyer confided to a friend that he was leaving Wall Street.
Instead of moving to a traditional rival, the head of Cantor Fitzgerald LP's Hong Kong branch told colleague Didier Bensadoun he was joining a boutique bank backed by China. The venture's government-owned partner in June marked the Communist Party's 90th anniversary with employees singing "Revolutionists are Young Forever."
"People were surprised I'd leave Cantor," Boyer, 42, said in an interview. "This move is evolving with the world, it's going to the next level."
After Boyer and three of his colleagues resigned from Cantor on the same day to join what is now called Reorient Financial Markets Ltd., Cantor sued them, accusing them of conspiring to hurt Cantor through a coordinated defection. Hong Kong's High Court yesterday ruled they hadn't and rejected Cantor's claim for damages.
The dispute highlights how Chinese financial firms are becoming more aggressive in their pursuit of talent. They're raising salaries and hiring headhunters to target veterans from established Wall Street institutions who can bridge Chinese state capitalism and international markets.
Bankers in return are lured to the world's second-biggest economy as a source of deals, as state-owned assets are broken up and sold off and China's industrial behemoths step up acquisitions abroad. Overseas direct investment rose 10-fold to $68 billion in 2011 from a decade earlier, according to A Capital, a Beijing-based private equity fund.
'Story to Tell'
"Chinese banks are going out and they've got a story to tell," said CK Wan, a Hong Kong-based senior partner of headhunter Korn/Ferry International who has hired investment bankers for Chinese banks. "They've got access to clients that others don't and this is appealing to senior bankers."
Bocom International Holdings Co., the overseas securities unit of China's fifth largest lender, Bank of Communications Co., boosted pay to attract top talent in Hong Kong, Wang Dong, director of the firm's executive office said in an e-mail. The 788,000 yuan ($125,129) that Bank of Communications chairman Hu Huaibang in Shanghai earned in 2010 is little more than the $100,000 Boyer says he earned each month at Cantor.
Citic Securities International Co., a subsidiary of Beijing-based Citic Securities Co., has increased international hiring by 5 percent annually over the past few years, according to Elaine Wong, its head of human resources. Recruitment was aided by job cuts at multinational competitors, she said.
Western companies have hit back through legal action. In 2010 in Singapore, London-based oil company BP Plc sued members of its fuel oil trading team who moved to Shenzhen Brightoil Group, controlled by Chinese billionaire Raymond Sit Kwong Lam. The case was settled out of court in October last year, according to court documents.