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Morning Coffee: UBS is HIRING in China, but faces talent challenges

UBS hiring in China

UBS hiring here

The start of 2016 wouldn’t appear to be a particularly auspicious time for a bank to be talking up its hiring plans in China – markets have been volatile; the circuit breaker has been axed. UBS, however, is playing a recruitment long game on the mainland, reports Bloomberg.

The Swiss firm will keep expanding its Chinese headcount in wealth management, investment banking and asset management, says Kathryn Shih, UBS’s new head of Asia, without giving numbers or a timescale. “Volatility will stay with us this year, it’s going to be a challenging year for us,” Shih told Bloomberg. “UBS is putting a real stake in China because we really believe that this is where in the next 20-30 years the growth is going to come from.”

UBS has been focusing its Asian expansion around wealth management for several years and is currently hiring more client advisors in Hong Kong. But Shih’s announcement makes it clear that UBS won’t just be recruiting in the offshore wealth hub of Hong Kong – it wants to service mainland clients (China boasts more than a million millionaires) with boots on the ground. “Being onshore, especially in China, is very important,” she told Bloomberg.

Expanding onshore in wealth management will be far from straight forward, however, even for the number-one ranked firm in the sector regionally. While Singapore and Hong Kong both suffer from a shortage of private bankers, the supply of candidates is even more limited in China because the private banking industry is much younger and the products it offers are more restricted.

Meanwhile, as we pointed out last year, an increasing number of mainland private bankers want to move to Hong Kong rather than join onshore offices. And tempting Hong Kong bankers to relocate to a less developed market and fill the talent gap will be difficult. UBS will also have rivals to contend with – Credit Suisse and Julius Baer also want to hire in China, with the former following a strategy similar to UBS’s of selling investment banking products to private clients who own businesses.

Investment banking itself is also a focus for UBS, which was the only foreign bank among the top-10 IPO arrangers in China last year, according to Bloomberg. Shih wants the UBS Securities joint venture to win more IPO work as Chinese regulators liberalise public share sales. Hiring in equity capital markets – a sector we’ve already tipped to be hot in China this year – may therefore be on the cards.

Meanwhile:

Headhunter Mancano and Associates sues BSI in Singapore for S$7.1m for allegedly circumventing its referrals and hiring directly. (Swiss Info)

China’s top securities regulator gets a grilling. (Wall Street Journal)

New head of Asia debt syndicate at Deutsche Bank. (Finance Asia)

Li Ka-shing retains his crown as Hong Kong’s richest man for the 18th straight year. (South China Morning Post)

No bad thing that Singaporeans work abroad, says Prime Minister. (Asia One)

NUS professors explain the emotional and physiological effects of a high workload. (South China Morning Post)

Five unmistakable signs of a desperate job seeker. (Forbes)




Image credit: Ingram Publishing, Thinkstock

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