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Private banks are still hiring, but private bankers are increasingly reluctant to move

Last month we told you to email us with questions for Daniel Jones, Randstad managing consultant, private banking, Singapore & Hong Kong. Today we publish his answers.

How does the job market for private bankers in Asia compare with six months ago? How hard has it been hit by problems in the global economy and cost cutting at global banks?

Private banks in Asia are still hiring aggressively across the region. There is a lot of opportunity for wealth creation in Asia and banks are looking toward Greater China and Indonesia as growth markets. However, we are seeing a trend where employees are choosing to remain with their institutions in order to help manage and sustain their existing client portfolios in this period of uncertainty and recent market downturn.

In the current market, what is the minimum level of assets under management (AUM) that a private banker needs to bring over to a new firm?

In light of the current economic uncertainty, banks have more realistic expectations when considering new hires for the private bank. They assess the capability of a relationship manager to grow revenue from existing clientele, as opposed to solely focusing on assets under management. As a guide – and this depends on the institution and seniority of the role – a private banker can be expected to bring in a minimum of US$150-200m over a two to three-year period.

How common is job hopping in Asian private banking? I’ve only been in a role for 18 months. Will employers think this is too short a time? Will moving now adversely affect my CV?

Job hopping is fairly common in Singapore. However, this is not reflective of other Asian banking cities. Within the Hong Kong private banking market, the average tenure is between five to seven years. Employers are more comfortable hiring a private banker who has shown stability and tenure within his or her previous employer, especially through downturns. This signals dedication and commitment to clients by helping them grow their wealth and maintain their client relationships. An employer may perceive a job hopper to be less of a performer, questioning his or her ability to achieve targets and attract new client relationships.

Is it still possible to move from privilege banking to private banking?

It has become more difficult to move from privilege banking to private banking, but it is not impossible. Recently, I’ve seen a trend of privilege bankers joining brokerage houses, due to the transactional similarities and revenue-focused approach of both roles. In order to make such a move, displaying confidence and being able to identify and acquire clientele with strong potential for wealth creation is imperative. If the banker has a proven track record in client acquisition and revenue production, banks may consider hiring him or her for a junior private banking role. It is also important that the banker possesses strong market knowledge and product understanding.

How common are team moves? If your current manager approaches you about following him to a new private bank, what is your advice?

Team moves are common in this industry and are becoming more frequent. This is due to strong team synergies and bankers confiding more in their leaders during this recent downturn. Many strong established teams move banks together. A team approach can be less daunting on sales targets, as opposed to an individual move, where you have individual target pressures and run the risk of your past colleagues retaining your book. Research from Randstad’s recent World of Work Report showed that the ability to motivate and inspire others is the key quality of effective leadership. Therefore, if a team has a strong leader looking to move institutions, the team members are more likely to follow.

What are your expectations for 2011 bonuses?

It is possible that employees will see deferred bonuses in 2012. With lower trading volumes this year within private banking, I am led to believe that we will see more stock options offered as opposed to cash. This is also a good retention strategy for banks to keep top talent.

As a new grad, what’s the best way to break into private banking?

Associate programmes or graduate schemes are by far the best ways to break into private banking. In unique situations candidates with a diverse network, or family connections that can be utilised, would also be considered for junior private banking roles. Typically in private banking, a relationship manager would start for the bottom (operations/back office) and work his or her way up.

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