International energy sector recruitment firm Spencer Ogden has opened an office in Hong Kong - its second in Asia - to tackle the north Asian market, including the nascent mainland market. David Spencer, the chief executive of the London-based firm, said while it did not have a permit to operate as a stand-alone entity on the mainland, it was hiring graduates there and training them to work in Hong Kong to develop the mainland market. "It takes three years to apply for a wholly owned foreign enterprise licence on the mainland, but we can transact business there since we will be employing around 30 mainland graduates," Spencer told the South China Morning Post . While mainland energy firms are mostly state-owned and rely mostly on their own recruiters, Spencer said his firm hoped to use its Hong Kong presence to make a foray into the mainland. A senior manager at oil and gas giant PetroChina said it "very occasionally" used international recruiters to hire some foreign talent to fill senior positions. Spencer said the Hong Kong office would focus on placing energy traders and financiers, and energy talents in South Korea, Japan and Australia. It opened an office in Singapore just four months ago. He expects the firm to turn over US$80 million this year and US$120 million next year. The company was set up in 2010 by Spencer, who had 15 years of recruitment experience in the technology sector. It has the financial backing of Peter Ogden, a former English investment banker, and aims to have 500 staff by 2015, up from 260 now. The company also has offices in Britain, Calgary, Houston, Dubai and South Africa. About HK$25 million has been invested since its inception. Spencer said the firm was a newcomer in an industry dominated by a few global firms, and its customer base was about a tenth that of its main rivals. "Competition was very weak … it appears to be a recruitment backwater for many years," he said, adding higher energy prices and the emergence of new energy industries gave Spencer Ogden a chance to join the fray. With the advent of online services, Spencer said building speciality expertise was key.