The privations of hiring private bankers

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International and Australian institutions are looking to boost their private banking activities in Australia. Saying so is the easy part - actually finding people to fit their expansion plans is proving to be another matter altogether.

The Australian private banking industry is dominated by European and American names such as UBS, Deutsche Bank, Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, along with the big four Australian banks, NAB, CBA, ANZ and Westpac.

But there are also many strong niche players, such as Investec, Bell Potter, Macquarie Bank, St George and Garnaut Advisory - and demand, boosted by Australia's strong pension funds system, is growing by the year.

UBS and Credit Suisse have both launched recruitment drives in recent months, looking to add 60 specialist staff over the next few years to cater for expected demand. The pace of recruitment is slow because most experienced bankers are so well entrenched at their current employment.

"They are very hard to find," says Matt Gowan, head of recruitment firm Hays Banking. "But the market is very positive. Most serious players are trying to come up with new and appealing ways of grabbing market share."

Private banking roles often attract salaries of up to AU$150k plus bonuses, although others on a fee linked to assets can earn up to AU$1m.

"Private bankers are at the top of the tree," says one recruiter, who declined to be named. 'They are highly skilled, highly sought-after, and very hard to attract away from their current jobs. HR people have become very astute at creating strong retention strategies."