Two former Michael Page executives have formed a new headhunting firm in Hong Kong called Profile Search and Selection. The firm will differ from other recruiting firms by offering its clients both executive search capabilities and advertised selection.

Traditionally there has been a clear distinction between these two cousins of the recruitment industry. Executive search is the high end, confidential headhunting carried out by slick individuals over a quiet drink in the Ritz Carlton. Advertised selection is the flow end of the business relying on multiple responses from adverts placed in journals like the FT.

"A lot of headhunting firms will not do advertised selection for their clients," says Andrew Oliver, managing director of Profile, who ran Michael Page's banking practice in Hong Kong for the past seven years. "We'll adopt a principle of doing what's right for the clients. We will carry out traditional retained searches, but we won't be afraid to tell the clients when a traditional retained search is not right and that an advertised selection process is more appropriate for a particular assignment."

The firm will also differ from other recruitment agents in that it will focus on placing people in both financial services and in human resources (HR). The HR side of the business will be run by Richard Letcher, who was with Michael Page for 10 years, in London, Sydney and Hong Kong.

According to Letcher, the HR function in Asia is slowly becoming a more strategic office within companies. "More money is now being spent on organizational development and top-end HR people," he says.

Moreover, the rationale for combining financial services and HR search and selection is that once an HR professional has been placed with a bank, that person immediately becomes a client of the financial services arm of the business.

The firm is the latest new entrant to what is a very competitive business, with numerous existing players jostling with each other for business. However, Oliver and Letcher believe that in financial services headhunting at least, the market for their services is still strong. "The employee market is still tightening and banks still need people," says Letcher. "Employers recognize there is stiff competition to hire the best candidates."

The pair also feel they have a certain advantage over existing players by the very fact that, although they both have extensive Asian experience, the company itself is new. "We don't have any non-compete agreements in place," smiles Oliver. "At least, not yet."