Stock brokers face a bleak future

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Investors sit watching share prices at an Asia Commercial Bank's securities trading floor in Hanoi

Nguyen Duy Linh, a stock broker with a securities firm in Hanoi's Lang Ha Street, is very busy.

He is absorbed in playing games on his mobile phone.

"Customers are not interested in the market. There are days I see no customer booking selling or purchasing orders," Linh, 32, said. "And it only costs VND4,000-5,000 (20-25 US cents) per share.

"The income of brokers like me has never been low as now. My monthly income of VND4-5 million is considered high, as many of my colleagues are only able to earn VND1-2 million each month," he said. "I have work but I feel as if I were unemployed."

When the market was bullish about five years ago, Linh's income could reach VND30-40 million each month.

However, despite the meager earnings at present, Linh, who has six years of experience in the field, sticks to his job because he cannot find a better one in the bearish market where most securities firms are struggling to survive.

The benchmark VN-Index closed at 375.79 on Wednesday from a peak of over 1,100 points in 2007.

Many securities firms have closed some, if not most of their branches.

Golden Bridge Vietnam recently announced it was closing down a branch in Hanoi's Kham Thien Street. Earlier, VietinBank Securities closed an office in Thai Thinh Street.

With business dwindling, the firms have also laid off employees.

Nguyen Van Thinh, a 28-year-old stock broker with a securities firm on Tran Hung Dao Street, said seven people have been laid off since early this year. Others unable to suffer the low income have given up their jobs.

"My company now has total of 10 staff members, including the director. When the market was bullish some years ago, we had nearly 40," he said. "Now, only brokers who love their jobs and are highly qualified are following the work."

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Several media reports have said that many securities firms have cut 8-30 percent of their employees in the first half of this year.

Huynh Anh Tuan, director of SJC Securities Company, said: "With the market so gloomy now, we have let some employees go, including accountants and transaction staff. We want to keep the good stock brokers, as they can directly benefit the company.

"However, it is very difficult for them to seek customers now."

Le Dat Chi of the Ho Chi Minh City Economics University said the present culling of brokers is happening in the aftermath of the mass recruitments by securities firms some years ago. "At that time, it was very easy for people with stock brokerage certificates to find jobs in securities firms. Now is the time for the firms to select and keep just the good staff."

Economists say the stock market is unlikely to recover soon and brokers will continue to face difficulties in their work or even finding work.

In the long run, Chi said, listed companies have to improve themselves and drive their stocks up, but for now, the market will stay down.

Vietnam's economy are, and will continue to be affected by the global slump, and businesses in the country are highly indebted, he said.

Under these circumstances, the stock market recovery that many investors are desperately wishing for will not happen, he added.

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