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Hiring trends in Asian private banking

As we hit the half-year mark, Citywire Asia takes a look at hiring trends at private banks in 2018

Safety in numbers

Continuing the trend in 2017, private bankers switched banks in groups comprising of three to six members, rather than moving individually.

For example, in February, Deutsche Bank Wealth Management hired a team of five from HSBC to set up a new Southeast Asia team based in Singapore.

‘Individual bankers feel now a bit more safer moving in teams because they have some sort of a safety net and banks are paying guaranteed bonuses,’ said Amod Jain, private banking consultant at Morgan McKinley.

Some wealth managers are paying bonuses that are matching dollar-for-dollar, occasionally with a top-up of 15-20%, to lure bankers. The guarantee is generally for the first one or two years and depends on certain performance milestones.

Milestones can include a certain amount of assets under management or net new money being brought in, along with a minimum amount of revenue.

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Safety in numbers

Continuing the trend in 2017, private bankers switched banks in groups comprising of three to six members, rather than moving individually.

For example, in February, Deutsche Bank Wealth Management hired a team of five from HSBC to set up a new Southeast Asia team based in Singapore.

‘Individual bankers feel now a bit more safer moving in teams because they have some sort of a safety net and banks are paying guaranteed bonuses,’ said Amod Jain, private banking consultant at Morgan McKinley.

Some wealth managers are paying bonuses that are matching dollar-for-dollar, occasionally with a top-up of 15-20%, to lure bankers. The guarantee is generally for the first one or two years and depends on certain performance milestones.

Milestones can include a certain amount of assets under management or net new money being brought in, along with a minimum amount of revenue.

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Indonesia is back

After a tumultuous period following the Indonesian tax amnesty of 2016-17, banks have stepped up hires for their onshore and offshore Indonesian business this year.

According to sources, Bank of Singapore has been looking for onshore bankers in Indonesia for the private banking business set up in 2017.

Among international players, Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse, UBS, Julius Baer and Morgan Stanley have also been hiring for their offshore Indonesia teams. VP Bank hired Samuel Witjaksono as market head for Indonesia in February.

‘Indonesia is back in flavour because the amnesty is now in order,’ Jain said.

He added that banks have also been ramping up their search for relationship managers (RMs) to cover Thailand and the Philippines as international players start to penetrate the emerging markets.

Julius Baer, for instance, is hiring 20 bankers for its joint venture with Siam Commercial Bank. Credit Suisse recently obtained a licence to open a representative office in the Philippines and is expected to make further hires.

HSBC hired Paul Handley as a desk head for Thailand in Singapore in the second half of last year to start a new Thai team.

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North Asia

Private banks have also been hiring for their North Asia business this year.

Earlier this month, Julius Baer hired Vicki Lee from UBS Wealth Management as new group head for Greater China.

UBS, in the meantime, announced three new appointments for its Greater China team targeting ultra-high-net-worth (UHNW) clients. It named Bryce Wan, Zhang Xin and Jenny Su as country team heads for the UHNW China team.

Some of the bigger banks are restructuring their country teams this way to break up bigger teams into smaller units and appointing team heads, says Rahul Sen, head of private wealth management at search firm The Omerta Group.

Bank of Singapore promoted Derrick Tan to CEO of the Hong Kong branch and he has been tasked with winning new money for the bank from Greater China and North Asia, with a strategic focus on the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area.

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Middle East

According to Sen, Julius Baer, J Safra Sarasin and LGT have been hiring in the Middle East. Bank of Singapore and DBS, meanwhile, have been rapidly increasing their presence there.

DBS wants to double its relationship manager staff to 25 by the end of 2018 and as of March, Bank of Singapore had grown its total number of employees in Dubai by 55% year-on-year to 110.

‘Bank of Singapore, with Vikram Malhotra heading it there, has made quite a few inroads in the Middle East with the non-resident Indian population,’ Sen noted.

BNP Paribas Wealth Management has also become more visible in the region since Masroor Batin was made wealth management CEO for Middle East and Africa in January, Omerta noted.

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Smaller banks

Small-and-mid-sized banks, such as Pictet Wealth Management, Union Bancaire Privée (UBP) and J Safra Sarasin, have been actively on the look-out for senior talent this year.

Michael Blake, Asia CEO of UBP, said that the bank is switching its hiring focus from Hong Kong to Singapore this year, primarily for the domestic market as well as other segments, such as non-resident Indians.

In the meantime, Pictet Wealth Management is looking to tap the Chinese and Indonesian markets this year, said Asia chief executive Claude Haberer.

‘Everyone knows that in Asia to make some reasonable amount of money you need to be at $30 billion [assets under management],’ Sen said.

‘So the ones at $18-$20 billion are more determined to expand, to hire and gain additional bankers and to improve upon their existing systems and products,’ he added.

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Good year

2018 started out as a good year for Jain, who closed a deal as early as January, and the recruitment consultant is positive that the rest of the year will be just as good.

For example, UBS grew its advisor count by 40 in the first quarter alone and industry insiders say that Julius Baer is continuing its hiring spree.

Moreover, while Credit Suisse wants to grow its asset base from existing clients, Sen believes that the private bank will step up hiring in the second half of the year.

‘The merry-go-round will continue in 2018. Everyone has the appetite to hire, everyone is looking aggressively to expand,’ Jain concluded.

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