China's entry into the World Trade Organisation may boost employment prospects for 'interim' managers in Asia, offsetting any decline in demand due to the region's economic recovery from the financial crisis. Speaking after a seminar organised by the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) on contracting out, finance functions, human resources expert and former CIMA president Roger Ho said demand could be spurred by medium-size foreign companies chasing mainland investment opportunities. Mr Ho, regional head of global interim management at international executive search firm Impact Executives, said it had more than 300 interim manager candidates suitable for short-term senior management assignments. 'Interim management is still a relatively new concept in Asia, with a history of about two years,' he said. The concept was popular in Western countries after being pioneered more than 20 years ago in Holland, where high income taxes and tough labour laws encouraged contract-based management. Human resources professionals say demand for such hired guns often arise when circumstances are better handled by outsiders, such as organisational restructuring and workforce down-sizing. Interim managers, skilled in making swift decisions and handling internal resistance to change, would normally hand the operations to new operational managers a few months after completing their assignments - when the organisation returns to a more stable state. The regional financial crisis had brought demand for interim managers as widespread corporate failures and problem assets resulted in a surge in mergers and acquisitions and restructuring. Another common situation requiring provisional strategic management is the establishment of start-up operations, which would be handed over to managers skilled in day-to-day operations. Mr Ho said China's impending WTO entry would create ample opportunities for interim managers to handle feasibility studies and start-up operations of medium-size foreign companies wanting to establish a mainland presence. While most Asian managers were not culturally comfortable with temporary employment, redundancies and early retirement of senior managers stemming from corporate restructuring in the post-financial crisis years had increased the supply of potential interim managers who had had China experience. Only a small group managers were apparently suited for such employment arrangements. Christopher Chu, who took up a four-month appointment as chief financial officer at the Tokyo operation of a United States-based electronic and aerospace company after it was merged with a competitor, said the arrangement was extremely demanding. He had to complete the 'dirty job' of restructuring the merged entity. 'I only had 48 hours to hand over my existing job and move to Tokyo,' said the Hong Kong-born business consultant who set up a partnership practice after he left a senior post at one of the big five international auditing and consulting firms. He said successful candidates had to be people who had already established a successful senior management track record, and they tended to be financially secure self-employed consultants. Such temporary arrangements could carry substantial risks for both the employers and employees, but he said compensation, which tended to be several times more than payments in normal employment, was seldom directly tied to job performance. Confidentiality of sensitive corporate information was a major concern for employers in such temporary high-level senior management employment. Both the executive search firm and the employee had incentives to meet the employers' expectations in order to uphold their reputation and secure future business, Mr Chu said.