Private banks are fond of talking up their expansion plans in Asia – the world’s fastest growing region for private wealth (Credit Agricole provides the most recent example of this trend). But where do Asia's relationship managers really want to work?
While private bankers in Hong Kong and Singapore can’t simply pick and choose their employers, their opinions carry more clout than in most other parts of financial services – demand for revenue-generators in Asian private banking outstrips supply.
We’ve asked several headhunters in Asia to tell us what private bankers think are the employers of choice right now.
Predictably enough, private banking jobs at the two Swiss giants are the top choices of many candidates. “They like these banks because they have a strong reputation not just in Singapore and Hong Kong, but everywhere in Asia, with a stable organisational structure and a diversified product line,” says Howard Huo, a private banking recruiter at Pro Matrix in Beijing.
The ability to sell investment-banking products to business-owning private clients in Asia is becoming increasingly appealing to private bankers. As we noted last month, firms such as Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley and UBS have integrated their investment banking and private banking operations. Goldman Sachs, however, is the most popular firm for relationship managers looking for cross-selling opportunities, says Huo. “Its strong investment banking practice gives private bankers extra career credibility.”
DBS completed its takeover of Societe Generale’s Singapore and Hong Kong private banking arm last week and now boasts S$88 billion in high-net-worth assets under management. Most of SocGen’s relationship managers have been transferred to DBS and headhunters say the deal makes DBS more appealing to candidates, too. “SocGen is reputed for its structured products desk in Asia, while DBS’s strong branding in the region may now give former Soc Gen RMs more mileage,” says Clarence Law, a Singapore-based business advisor in private banking.
“The bigger labels are especially in favour with VP bankers this year: the likes of UBS, Credit Suisse, and Deutsche Bank,” says Rahul Sen, a former private banker and director at search firm Sheffield Haworth in Singapore. “These bankers are primarily interested in growing their client books and often talk about needing a ‘bigger machine’ to support their business development work.”
“While bigger banks are also in favour at ED or director level, these private bankers also like to know about opportunities at mid-sized boutiques and second-tier firms: Bank of Singapore, ABN AMRO, BNP Paribas, Julius Baer, Pictet,” says Sen. “These bankers have already acquired a fair chunk of assets and a loyal client following, but now want to move to a more independent shop with a more flexible business model across markets and sectors.”
“For MDs, if they’re are not going into management, market-head roles, or a multi-family office, they sometimes prefer the smaller boutiques, where they have complete flexibility and independence and where they can make a lot more money,” explains Sen. “Banks like EFG Private Bank, Lombard Odier, Union Bancaire Privée are spoken of favourably at the moment.”
Early this year RHB, which confirmed its merger with CIMB last week, revealed its intention to hire more private bankers in Singapore. Maybank made a similar move in August. But in a candidate-driven job market, this hasn’t led to Malaysian firms becoming top of mind for private bankers in Singapore. “Most bankers aren’t asking me about them – it’s a difficult move for their clients – unless they have very compelling reasons to join, like a strong Malaysian client base,” says a Singapore headhunter who asked not to be named. However, these banks are prime targets for “priority” bankers, who serve mass-affluent retail customers and want to make a move up the wealth-management career ladder.
While pre-GFC private bankers may have been more concerned with hours spent on the golf course with clients, these days the industry is getting less glamorous and more product-driven. Private bankers at all levels are increasingly emphasising the importance of a bank’s product range when considering where they want to work. This is helping umbrella banks with retail, corporate and investment banking offshoots – Standard Chartered, HSBC and Citi in particular – rise up the candidate pecking order, according to the anonymous headhunter.