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How to get a banking job at UBS, CS and Citi in Asia without going directly

Private banking careers in Asia

Not your typical path

The typical route to becoming a relationship manager in Asia’s booming private banking sector involves slogging away in an assistant role for up to six years.

But there are other, less tedious, ways into the industry. We’ve trawled through LinkedIn profiles to find examples of successful private bankers in Singapore and Hong Kong with interesting career histories.

1. Wee Kim Tiah, client advisor, UBS, Singapore

It is still possible to become a private banker after gaining your schmoozing stripes serving less wealthy priority-banking customers. From 2003 to 2013, Wee worked in the mass-affluent sector at DBS, Citi and Standard Chartered in Singapore – he then impressed UBS enough for it to take a punt on making him a fully-fledged private banker. Interestingly, Wee had an entirely different career before getting his first banking job – from 1997 to 2002 he was head of IT at Singapore’s Ministry of Education. As private banks focus more on improving their digital-banking platforms, Wee’s skills could be a winning combination in the future.

2. Yi Li, private banker, UBS Singapore

Li’s profile makes it clear that he hasn’t made a dull climb up the banking ranks. “From media, to casino, to banking, Li Yi has transitioned himself towards his long term goal: a successful private banker specialized in Greater China market.” Li was a director at Singapore’s Resorts World Sentosa casino between 2008 and August 2011 before joining UOB as an errr, “rainmaker”.  Like Wee (see profile above), UBS then hired him as a private banker in 2013. As Asia’s largest private wealth manager by assets and headcount, the Swiss firm has traditionally been more opened minded about recruiting from outside the private banking sector. Li can potentially also offer fitness tips to his clients – he’s had a side gig as a freelance aerobics instructor for almost 12 years.

3. Ting Sun, director, senior private banker, BNP Paribas, Hong Kong

As we reported last month, many mainland-based private bankers aspire to move themselves (and their clients’ assets) to Hong Kong – where they can offer a much wider range of products and services. Twelve-year BNP loyalist Sun achieved just that in 2012 when he relocated from Shanghai to Hong Kong. He also has a comparatively rare blend of Franco-Asian experience, which means BNP will be loath to lose him. He worked for Accenture and Deloitte in Paris before joining BNP in the French capital in 2003, and he has qualifications from Wuhan University, Université Paris Sud and Ecole de Management de Lyon.

4. Deepu Joseph, director, Citi, Singapore

Joseph’s relentlessly upward career path is the stuff of dreams for many India-based finance professionals. He started out in 1998 in the non-back sector in India with American Express and Prudential, before joining Citibank India in its mass-affluent Citigold division. He left India via the much-coveted route of relocating – first to Bahrain and then to Singapore – to manage non-resident Indian (NRI) wealth. Joseph is also a boomerang banker – after a stint of about one year at RBC, Citi poached him back in November 2014.

5. Serene Ang, private banker, ICBC, Singapore

Hong Kong may be where most Chinese millionaires and billionaires book their assets, but as we reported earlier this year, they are increasingly also using Singapore as a wealth base. Ang joined ICBC in 2013 and led the set-up of its “private banking hub” – she also manages a portfolio of international clients in China, Indonesia and Singapore. While Chinese firms like ICBC – still relative newbies to the wealth industry – struggle to attract the same calibre of private bankers as their global rivals, Ang’s rise to a senior role is still remarkable. She graduated from Singapore Management University only in 2009 and joined Standard Chartered as a personal financial consultant. Three years later she’d already reached VP level at UOB, before being poached by ICBC.

6. Debra Tay, senior team leader, Credit Suisse, Singapore

Headhunters tell us that some private bankers are looking to leave ANZ right now following a review of its Asia operations. Tay has already made the move out of ANZ – she joined Credit Suisse as a director in April. Her career path also highlights that it’s possible to enter private banking at a senior level having forged a career elsewhere in banking. After working for about eight years in global-investor and fixed-income sales at Standard Chartered and FTN Financial respectively, Tay became a senior private banker only in 2009.

7. Brice Barret, relationship manager, Bank of Singapore

Bank of Singapore, OCBC’s wealth unit, must be focused on hiring bankers with strong Asian client networks – correct? Not necessarily. Barret joined the firm in 2012 from Societe Generale in Singapore as a relationship manager for international markets. He had previously relocated from Monaco in 2010 with Soc Gen to serve European clients with an “interest for Asia”. The door to private banking jobs in Singapore has not entirely closed on budding expatriates.


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