Asset management companies are defying falling markets to push ahead with plans for growth, spurred by opportunities to take business once monopolized by investment banks.
Old Mutual Asset Managers, Ignis Asset Management, Russell Investments and Investec Asset Management are looking to hire staff, according to research by Financial News, while other asset managers say they are more likely to hire than to fire.
Andrew Formica, chief executive of UK-quoted asset manager Henderson, said: "It feels like 2008 in some ways, but it's different.
"We have maintained the flexibility in our cost base over the last few years, to be able to cushion the impact of a fall in market levels. We may even make some hires in some areas of our business as we look to position ourselves for future growth."
Some asset managers are going even further on to the front foot. Roderick Munsters, chief executive of Dutch asset manager Robeco, with €150 billion of assets under management, is starting to consider acquisition options.
Following the completion of a cost-cutting initiative, he said scaling up in bonds could be an option. Munsters said: "Our target is to raise our assets by €10bn a year."
Munsters' interest in a deal coincides with the onset of a fresh crisis in European banking. Franco-Belgian bank Dexia is expected to be rescued in the near future by a French-led consortium, raising the possibility that its asset management and private banking arms may be sold.
Taking the place of banks
Moreover, with banks on the defensive, and required to raise their capital reserves under Basel III, asset managers sense a chance to capture business that was previously considered the preserve of banks.
M&G Investments, BlueBay Asset Management and Babson Capital have launched initiatives to lend directly to companies, circumventing banks.
US manager BlackRock and UK-listed Ashmore argue that asset managers are well placed to become more involved in capital raisings for companies and countries, as a result of their position as trusted intermediaries to pension schemes, insurers and other suppliers of capital.
This positive outlook has helped give asset managers the confidence to add staff despite market falls, with the FTSE 100 index down 11.8% so far this year.
John Davison-White, managing director at buyside specialist recruiter Bridgeman International, said: "At present the successful firms are actively expanding headcount."
Martin Lorigan, head of asset management at headhunter Principal Search, said: "We expect hiring to slow down in the final quarter. However, there is certainly no sense of the turmoil that gripped the industry at this point in 2008 and we don't see aggressive headcount reduction.
We expect searches that would have been initiated now to be pushed back into the early part of 2012, but most of our clients will still find budget for transformational or key hires."
A spokeswoman for Old Mutual Asset Managers, which created three roles in the past six months, said: "OMAM are committed to growing their institutional offering."
A spokeswoman for Ignis Advisors, the multi-manager business of Ignis Asset Management, which added three new managers last week, said Ignis had "an appetite to hire ready for continued growth".
Russell Investments, which has recently added senior staff to its global consulting business, plans to increase staff in other areas of the business, in particular its fiduciary management arm, according to a spokeswoman.
Investec Asset Management has hired 30 employees over the past few months, according to an asset management headhunter, predominantly in the firm's distribution arm, with a further 10 hires in the pipeline before the end of the year. Investec declined to comment.
An equity analyst said Schroders was "looking to add in fixed income and especially absolute return". A source at Schroders said it would consider candidates when necessary. The firm declined to comment.
The London division of Swiss manager Mirabaud added two managers last month, and UK manager Matrix Asset Management has increased staff numbers.
US manager T Rowe Price, which has created a new fixed-income solutions group, has hired Peter Austin as head of fixed-income solutions in the US.
The asset management arms of investment banks are less positive. Sources close to UBS Global Asset Management said it is not increasing headcount, although it is focusing resources on growth areas such as Europe third-party wholesale distribution.
Morgan Stanley Investment Management is not hiring managers, but has added to its sales team in Asia.
Goldman Sachs Asset Management said it was finishing off the hiring program it began in 2009. Credit Suisse Asset Management declined to comment.
Giles Turner and Sophie Baker are reporter for Financial News, where this story originally appeared. Write to Giles and Sophie.