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Two key skills you now need to succeed in a banking job in Singapore

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If you’re looking for a private banking job in Singapore or looking to climb the career ladder in your current firm, two skills are becoming increasingly sought after: international-investment expertise and the ability to help private clients with their corporate wealth.

While the job market in private banking is competitive in Singapore, profit margins are tight and relationship managers face tough revenue targets. Being able to advise clients on their global investments, not just their domestic ones, is fast becoming a make-or-break skill.

“Singapore is a big FX-trading centre and now more than ever it’s very important for a private banker to have great knowledge of cross-border investments and products,” says Rahul Sen, a former private banker and director at search firm Sheffield Haworth in Singapore. “Bankers need to have the ability to understand how to move clients’ wealth offshore legally and through a compliant-friendly process.”

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In a new survey of high-net-worth individuals by Barclays Wealth Insights, Singapore tops Asia for investing in a “geographically diversified portfolio of assets” – with one in three respondents adopting this investment strategy, compared with 17% in Hong Kong and just 1% in China.

“Diversification is key to portfolio management and bankers need an intimate knowledge of different markets and asset classes to help the client develop a diversified portfolio,” says a Singapore-based spokesperson for Barclays.

For bankers in Singapore, “diversification” increasingly means understanding the market in China, not just in nearby Southeast Asia. One in three high-net-worth individuals in Singapore plans to relocate to China in the next five years to take advantage of “economic opportunities”, according to the Barclays report.

“China-based investments have been attractive in the last few years and clients in Singapore invest in China through H-Shares in Hong Kong and through fixed-income structures,” says Sen. “But private banking in China is still in a very nascent stage and doesn’t offer many products, so Singaporean clients moving there often prefer keeping much of their wealth management offshore in Singapore or Hong Kong.”

As well as the ability to handle international investments, relationship managers in Singapore increasingly need to “engage their clients not just with their personal wealth but with their corporate wealth as well”, says Clarence Law, a Singapore-based business advisor in private banking.

Many private-banking clients in Asia are entrepreneurs with rapidly growing businesses, a fact which helps explain why the wealth of high-net-worth individuals in the region expanded by 18% between 2012 and 2013, the highest rate globally, according to the Wealth Report 2014 by Capgemini and RBC Wealth Management. Investment bankers are being hired into private banks in Asia to service the business needs of these entrepreneurial clients – a trend we noted earlier this month.

“Clients in Asia have evolved to be much more sophisticated in their financial needs and hence in their requirements for  private bankers who serve them. The better equipped in business knowledge, the more successful the banker will be these days,” says Law.

Private Banking in Singapore is no longer about “hiding non-tax paid money”, say Sen from Sheffield Haworth. “It’s about offering clients an end-to-end solution across their personal and corporate wealth – and offering them investment structures which take care of their long-term estate planning, trust services and insurance.”

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