We’re barely a week into August – a supposedly quiet month for significant new appointments at international banks – but already several firms have beefed up their senior ranks in Asia.
Here’s a selection of the most interesting internal promotions in Asia this month – and an explanation of what they mean for banking jobs in Hong Kong and Singapore.
Societe Generale has been talking up its Asian expansion plans for the past 12 months; now BNP Paribas is getting in on the act: it has appointed Paul Yang, a BNP veteran banker who joined the firm in 1988, as its head of Greater China (the mainland and Hong Kong). Significantly, this is a newly created role driven by BNP’s need for leadership in what it describes as a “crucial market” in its Asia Pacific development plan.
“BNP Paribas scaled back in mainland China during the financial crisis but they now see the opportunities that are starting to re-emerge here as the financial market opens up,” says Alistair Ramsbottom, managing director of Shanghai search firm The Blacklock Group. “They want to be ready to capitalise on this liberalisation as China may offer them the lion's share of business within Asia.”
Yang is the archetypal multiple-job Greater China banker – he’s also been made country head for mainland China, but remains based in Hong Kong and keeps his existing responsibilities as Hong Kong country head and chief executive of BNP’s Hong Kong branch. Western banks increasingly demand that their Hong Kong bankers have strong mainland connections that will help clinch Chinese corporates and state-owned enterprises as clients.
“With more Chinese investors launching IPOs in Hong Kong, the city is the major hub for the Greater China teams,” says Sandeep Mohanan, an associate director at search firm Global Sage in Hong Kong. Bankers also prefer living in Hong Kong because they pay less tax than they would in Shanghai or Beijing.
Other firms are expanding their investment banking teams in Greater China as the mainland has released its freeze on new listings and M&A volumes have increased. JPMorgan poached David Li from UBS in July as its new China head, while the previous month Morgan Stanley hired Jing Qian from Deutsche Bank as managing director in its China investment banking division.
Standard Chartered is a stalwart bank in Asia and generates most of its revenues from the region – but its fortunes have turned this year. On Wednesday it announced a 20% year-on-year fall in first-half revenues, on the back of declining Asian investment banking income.
Senior departures have also afflicted its capital markets team – most notable Anand Kumar, who recently left the firm after a brief tenure as head of capital markets, and Beng Kiong Pee, who quit as head of Southeast Asia bond syndicate in April to join OCBC.
This month SCB took a step towards rebuilding in capital markets by naming Henrick Raber as Kumar’s replacement, promoting him from head of debt capital markets, based in Singapore. Don’t expect Raber to be in any rush to expand his team – SCB’s results point to falling client-focused headcount as the firm has boosted its compliance unit.
Moreover, several recruiters in Singapore have told us that rank-and-file retention at SCB has suffered because of the bank’s current travails. “We are receiving more calls than ever from Stan Chart people enquiring about roles elsewhere,” says one.
Last month we reported on ANZ’s renewed growth plans in Asia. Leading ANZ’s expansion in Hong Kong is Ivy Au Yeung, recently appointed as chief executive for the Australian bank in the territory. She has been acting CEO since June and was previously head of ANZ’s commercial business in Asia Pacific.
Until 2011 Au Leung spent 20 years at Standard Chartered and is one of many examples of ANZ staff who’ve worked at SCB, Citi or HSBC – Western banks with a strong Asian business whose regional reach ANZ is trying to emulate. Her boss, CEO of international banking Farhan Faruqui, hails from Citi.
Recruiters in Hong Kong expect this poaching trend to continue, mainly via employees referring former colleagues from rival firms – a comparatively quick and cost-effective way for ANZ to hire. Relationship managers from SCB, Citi or HSBC with large Greater China networks are particularly sought after by ANZ’s private and corporate banks.
Au Leung follows in the footsteps of Anita Fung Yuen-mei, who became HSBC's first female CEO for Hong Kong in September. Catherine Low, head of ING in Singapore, told us last month that she had not experienced a glass ceiling in her rise to the C-suite in Asian banking