A rare shaft of light has pierced the stygian gloom of Hong Kong's head hunting market as UK boutique Sheffield Haworth opens up a new Hong Kong office. The firm has appointed Toby Crosthwaite to be its managing director in the Territory.

Crosthwaite - widely known as one of the more astute young headhunters in town - will be focusing on his specialty area of investment banking and equities. He is looking to recruit staff to focus on the wealth management and debt capital markets and derivative areas.

The move is unusual at a time when merging and closing seems the order of the day among Hong Kong's beleaguered headhunting community. "Now is an interesting time to be doing this," says Crosthwaite. "We are bucking the trend of our competitor firms who are mainly consolidating or scaling back in Asia. We are doing the opposite."

Crosthwaite himself comes from Baines Gwinner, which a few months ago was bought by UK-listed search firm Whitehead Mann. He has an existing contact base which he will add to Sheffield Haworth's London relationships. In addition the firm has bought a 10-year database with 25,000 names from a rival headhunting firm.

Explaining why he thinks his firm can succeed while others are finding it difficult, Crosthwaite notes that "our clients like using firms like ours in difficult times to upgrade their existing teams. They like us because we are smaller and more flexible than the larger generalist firms."