Asia’s largest private bank has just got bigger. UBS expanded its headcount of Asian ‘client advisors’ (the name it uses for relationship managers) by 40 quarter on quarter in Q1, according to its financial results.
While Q1 is typically a busy time for recruitment in Asian private banking, this is still a significant rise, given the chronic talent shortages that continue to plague the sector. By comparison, UBS’s RM workforce only inched up by nine in the first three months of 2017, as the table below shows.
The recent rise at UBS takes its RM workforce to 1,077, putting further distance between it and Asia’s second biggest private bank, Credit Suisse (which employed 590 RMs at the end of last year).
Many of the 40 new RMs were hired into UBS’s two Hong Kong offices, in the International Finance Centre and across the harbour in Kowloon, says a source with knowledge of the bank. UBS appears to be on track with its plans, announced in May 2017, to hire 100 Hong Kong-based private bankers in the two years to mid-2019.
The Swiss firm has renewed its focus on mid-tier millionaires (people with investable assets of $2m and above) in Hong Kong. It is recruiting RMs to service this segment even as competitors like Standard Chartered raise their thresholds for their private banking clients.
UBS has therefore become an attractive destination for high-net-worth bankers, while rivals concentrate on the ultra-high market. “Bankers with $2m clients are still welcome there,” says former Merrill Lynch private banker Rahul Sen, now head of wealth management at search firm The Omerta Group. “UBS also has one of the best product and systems platforms of any bank in Asia, and its RMs benefit from its overall investment management structure.”
UBS’s recruitment of 40 bankers in just three months puts the industry’s other recent hiring sprees in the shade. Figures released earlier this month by Asian Private Banker show that Morgan Stanley and Deutsche have added 51 and 50 new RMs in Asia, respectively – but it took 12 months, all of 2017, to get them on board.
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