Structured-finance specialists in the job market would be well advised to go to Japan, where demand for asset-backed professionals is very high, said securitization experts. This year's ABS explosion in Japan along with a general shortage of structured-finance specialists in the region has meant that many firms involved in the asset-backed business are hunting experienced staff willing to settle in Tokyo. "Practically every bank is looking to hire anyone with experience right now, even if you can spell the word securitization. It's pretty crazy," commented one banker in Hong Kong.

Banks looking to bolster their presence in Japan include ING Barings, Credit Suisse First Boston, Bear Stearns, and Merrill Lynch. Bank of America has reportedly been looking for an ABS head in Japan. Demand for those with experience in real-estate finance and securitization is particularly keen, as the number of commercial mortgage-backed securitizations is expected to multiply quickly before year-end. "Commercial real estate is booming right now. But there's definitely a shortage of appraisers, and lack of trained people here in general," added another pro.

Anticipating an onslaught of new issuance, rating agencies are also quickly staffing up. Duff & Phelps recently hired Thomas W. Eastling, formerly senior vice-president at Nikko Securities, to be senior vice-president of the agency's new Japan office, where he will initially focus on rating securitizations. Standard & Poor's has recently hired Nahoko Ohori, formerly at Lehman Brothers, as associate director of structured transactions, while Moody's has added Akiko Shigemoto, formerly at Nikko Salomon Smith Barney, as a structured finance analyst. Not to be outdone, Fitch IBCA said it will hire two new associate directors in Tokyo and New York before the end of the summer to focus solely on Japanese ABS.

Relishing the prospect of more billable hours, law firms are also beefing up their Japan securitization teams. Allen & Overy has recently hired David Kim, formerly at Kim & Chang in Seoul, and this fall will transfer Tak Matsuda from its London office. Another firm focusing on securitization, Clifford Chance, has hired Paul Avanzato, who will be joined in Tokyo by partner Stephen Roith from the firm's London office in September. - VC

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