Equity derivatives structurer, Moscow: How much am I worth?

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Basic: about 90,000-100,000; Bonus: up to 400% (for VP level and above).

Until very recently, the words "Moscow" and "equity derivatives structurer" simply did not correlate: Russia's capital markets were still very undeveloped and such exotic skills were barely heard of, yet alone in demand.

Yet things are changing, according to recruiters familiar with Moscow.

"With the increasing sophistication of the Russian capital markets there is a clear need for a new class of equity services and structured products like those so much in demand in developed financial markets," says Richard Fraser of RJF Global Search.

Although the larger US and European houses still base their Russian equity derivatives business in London, growing calls for on-the-ground expertise has led to a spike in demand for qualified individuals happy to be Moscow-based. Corporates, financial institutions and even oligarchs willing to maximise their (oft ill-gotten) gains have all added to the growing, and increasingly sophisticated, client base. The problem, however, is finding properly qualified individuals.

"Following August 1998 - when the Russia crisis hit - many with the requisite skills moved into other structured arenas: ever since, supply has remained below demand," says Elvira Muratova, who covers emerging markets for recruitment firm Napier Scott.

She adds that structurers with ten years experience, who have witnessed and survived 1998, are very scarce. Indeed, Taru Oksman-Ison, director at Principal Search, adds that Russian focused equity derivatives structurers are so few and far between that European and US firms are having to create them out of their fixed income teams.

Banks are making a definite effort to build up professional Moscow teams, however, led by Renaissance Capital, whom recruiters agree is well ahead of the competition when it comes to building large, well-integrated and effective teams. According to Fraser other institutions also actively recruiting include CentreInvest and various US and European houses.

Targeted individuals are typically Russians and/or Russian-Americans with experience of working for global investment houses in other financial centres, with excellent quantitative skills - which remain de rigeur for anybody involved in the derivatives market. Good communications and people skills are also vital, not least because although the client base is increasingly knowledgable, straightforward equities were unknown in Russia until the early 1990s and thus, hardly surprisingly, many potential Russian clients find the notion of equity derivatives complex and bewildering.

This means that for the Russian-based equity derivatives structurer, explaining how derivatives actually work (and marketing them) to potential clients - and indeed, senior staff working in other areas of the bank - may take up as much time as the actual structuring.

So how much money does this translate to in gross earning terms?

For competent individuals with a good understanding of the equity derivatives market and who are able to boast at least a few years structuring experience, Fraser says base salaries of between 80,000-125,000 are standard; Oksman-Ison and Muratova agree, suggesting a starting base of between 80,000 and 110,000. The real money comes with the bonus, however: Fraser and Muratova suggest 400% is not unusual, whilst Oksman-Ison suggests an individual at VP or director level would be looking at total comp of between $850,000-$1.1m. Nice money if you can get it, and almost certainly worth moving to Moscow for.

Figures and commentary by Principal Search, RJF Global Search and Napier Scott

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