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Slow but steady hiring at private banks in Japan

Foreign private banks are still on the hunt for talent in Tokyo, but recruitment levels are too low to offer much hope to redundant i-bankers seeking sanctuary in the sector.

Citigroup, UBS and Société Générale are among the most active in the fledging Japanese jobs market, although the scale of their recruitment pales in comparison to more developed private banking centres such as Singapore and Hong Kong, says one recruiter who did not want to be named.

Some banks, such as HSBC are building their own brands while others are partnering with locals, hence the emergence of Shinsei-Macquarie Advisory Co. and Mitsubishi UFJ Merrill Lynch PB Securities.

Keiichi Morita, a consultant in Hays Banking, says private banking hiring is too tiny to pick up the slack from recent lay-offs in investment banking. But there should be steady if slow recruitment growth in the longer term as foreign private banks try to exploit the largely untapped Japanese market. “Banks need relationship managers who can generate new business and have excellent sales skills,” says Morita.

Arlo Brown, a consultant at T2 Tokyo, says private bankers in Japan often have long careers and stay active in the industry until their 50s and 60s. Senior people are most in demand for relationship manager roles, largely because of the customers they bring with them and the importance of personal relationships in Japanese business, adds Morita. Compliance professionals are also needed but are in short supply.

Poaching from competitors can only get you so far in Japan, because the supply of experienced private bankers is limited. “Some banks are therefore hiring staff from other job functions, such as insurance sales or commercial bankers, who already have contacts in the market,” says Morita.

Brown warns that the current cautious growth of private banking recruitment could be disrupted in the future if foreign firms fail to generate enough interest in their new products. “The industry and the jobs market here is still immature,” he adds.

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