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Chinese wealth management: a hiring boom waiting to happen?

It seems that every foreign bank wants to be top dog in China’s wealth management sector – and for good reason. When Forbes magazine published its list of the richest people in the world earlier this month, it singled out China for mention because it was the first year in which the country had the most number of billionaires outside the US.

“China is currently considered the most attractive wealth management market in Asia for international banks. The country has experienced very fast growth for an extended period, and this has helped to create a whole new generation of wealthy individuals,” says Harry Senlitonga, a senior analyst at research firm Datamonitor.

The most active foreign recruiters in China’s wealth management sector include UBS, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, HSBC and Citi, according to a private banking headhunter who asked not to be named.

An increasing number of roles advising clients in China are expected to be based in Shanghai, rather than Hong Kong, which has traditionally been the hub for China-focussed relationship managers, adds the recruiter.

But while mainland vacancy volumes in wealth management are rising, the massive potential of this sector is yet to translate into a full scale talent war.

“I think recruitment for relationship manager roles has picked up slightly since the second half of 2009, but they are still nowhere near what I would call aggressive,” comments Cherol Cheuk, director of banking at recruitment firm Hudson.

Much of China’s wealth was created relatively recently, so the private banking industry is still undeveloped. Many rich individuals are unaware of wealth management models and/or unwilling to pay a professional advisor to help them invest their funds.

It is also difficult for banks to find the talent they need to expand their wealth management businesses on the mainland, adds Cheuk. Firms favour Chinese candidates who have strong relationships with small and medium business owners and entrepreneurs.

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