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Nomura Holdings Inc. and SMBC Nikko Securities Inc. accelerated hiring of university graduates this year as the stock market rally brightens prospects for securities firms.

Nomura recruited 600 new graduates for its main brokerage arm, a 20 percent increase from a year earlier, said spokesman Kenji Yamashita.

SMBC Nikko, a unit of Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group Inc., also hired about 600, up 16 percent, said spokesman Kouichi Shibata.

The new staff will begin working on April 1.

Both firms took on more graduates than they had initially planned in order to secure talent as the labor market tightens and the equity market reaches a 15-year high.

Stock brokers will need staff to cater to individuals who are expected to follow institutional investors and buy more equities, said recruiter Katsunobu Komizo.

“Japanese brokerages are becoming bullish as their earnings are improving and confidence in fundamentals is growing,” said Komizo, president of Executive Search Partners Co., a Tokyo-based recruitment firm.

Nomura’s freshmen will work in the brokerage, investment banking, global markets, research and compliance departments, Yamashita said. The company had earlier planned to hire 570 graduates, he said.

SMBC Nikko, part of Japan’s second-biggest bank by market value, was going to recruit 560, Shibata said.

“We had to secure the manpower to expand the operations for individual and corporate clients as the lending and brokerage units work more closely together,” Takayuki Okuma, manager of recruiting at SMBC Nikko, said in an email.

Under Chief Executive Officer Koji Nagai, Nomura is shifting the focus of its domestic brokerage to asset management from securities trading.

Assets under management climbed to a record ¥105 trillion in January, and Nagai wants to expand the total to ¥150 trillion by March 2020.

The labor market is has tight as its been in 23 years, with 1.14 jobs available to each applicant in January, government figures show. That is beginning to translate into higher wages.

Most graduates starting at Nomura next month will receive a monthly salary of ¥232,300, about 11 percent more than their predecessors were paid a year earlier. Its domestic brokerage is raising base pay for 3,700 employees by about 2 percent on average to retain younger staff, it said in January.

Japanese institutional investors are switching to stocks as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe tries to vanquish deflation.

The Government Pension Investment Fund, the world’s largest investor of retirement savings, will put 25 percent of its assets into Japanese equities, it said Oct. 31. The Federation of National Public Service Personnel Mutual Aid Associations, a pension fund manager for civil servants, said last month it will do the same.

Net income at Nomura climbed to ¥70 billion in the three months ended December, the highest in seven quarters. SMBC Nikko posted profit of ¥22 billion, the most in six quarters.

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