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Rivals target ABN AMRO’s private bankers as it considers Asian wealth exit

Rivals already targeting ABN Amro private bankers as it ponders Asian exit

Circling ABN Amro staff

If you work at a private bank in Asia whose business is showing signs of weakness, consider yourself a prime target to be poached by a rival firm.

Standard Chartered, for example, has snapped up 10 Barclays relationship managers ahead of their firm selling its Asia wealth unit to Bank of Singapore.

And UBS has taken advantage of Deutsche Bank’s global struggles to hire two senior private bankers – with more potentially on their way.

Now we understand that RMs at yet another private bank in Asia – ABN AMRO – are calling (and being called by) headhunters following reports that the Dutch bank is in early discussions about the potential sale of its Asian wealth business.

“ABN bankers are usually notoriously difficult to move, but with a sale now becoming more probable, over the past two weeks several RMs in Asia have told me they’re now open to opportunities elsewhere,” says a headhunter who asked not to be named. “Sentiment changes fast in the job market in private banking.”

Long-term ABN bankers, especially those who joined before the financial crisis, are more likely to stay on and then transfer to a new owner, if and when ABN eventually exits Asian wealth management, says the headhunter.

“But if you joined just in the last four years or so, you might well make a pre-emptive move to another bank,” he adds. “You’re probably still trying to grow your client book and your team and you’ll want to be associated with a bank that’s expanding, not considering selling up.”

Meanwhile, rival private banks are taking a renewed interest in ABN’s 140 Asia-based relationship managers, say headhunters.

“Most private banks are keen on them if their profiles are strong and they have big client books,” says Liu San Li, a former Coutts private banker, now client director in private wealth management at headhunters EMA Partners in Singapore. “Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan are possible exceptions because they are only interested in ultra and mega-wealthy clients.”

ABN private bankers may be better off moving to a mid-sized competitor, such as Bank of Singapore (BoS) or Julius Baer, both of which are hiring in Asia.

“At ABN a desk head might be managing two or three people – and if they joined BoS they would likely still be desk heads and have the chance to grow their team,” says the anonymous recruiter. “But at a big firm like Credit Suisse, for example, they might just be a sub-desk head – there’s too much hierarchy there for them to grow in the same way.”

Ultimately, the bankers’ clients will dictate whether or not they remain at ABN.

“The RMs should first and foremost look after their clients’ interests,” says Clarence Law, a Singapore-based business advisor in private banking. “When ABN provides a clearer indication of its business direction in Asian wealth, that should provide a basis for RMs to decide if they should move their clients to a more settled environment or stay put.”

Some RMs will wait and see if the eventual buyer of the ABN Asian wealth business is a suitable platform for their clients.

Credit Suisse, Julius Baer and Cazenove Capital Management have already been touted as suitors, while our sources say DBS, Bank of Singapore and boutique firms LGT, Lombard Odier and Safra Sarasin may also put themselves in the running.


Image credit: studio023, Getty

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