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Private bankers are still in demand, even as Asia’s wealthy become more distrustful

Courting the rich has just gotten trickier

Courting the rich has just gotten trickier

Asia’s rich are increasingly disillusioned with their private bankers and prefer to manage their own assets, according to a recent Bloomberg article. This is helping to raise recruitment standards at private banks.

Citing figures from Boston Consulting Group, the story notes that banks in Asia with full discretion over their clients’ portfolios dropped to just 4 per cent of assets under management, compared with 7 per cent in 2006.

Where the hiring is

Nevertheless, there continues to be hiring in the region. One headhunter, who declined to be named, says it’s mostly mid-cap firms that are hiring wealth managers. Conversely, most large-cap firms want to downsize. Firms who are looking to recruit include Julius Baer, Sarasin, Bank of Singapore and Coutts. Royal Bank of Canada is another contender that will be looking to hire extensively soon, once it gets its Singapore license to become a full bank, adds our source.

Forget about it if you’re not senior

That said it’s not an employment frenzy. Jansen Gwee, general manager, banking and financial services, InterQuest Asia, says it’s mainly front-office roles (director level and above) that are in demand. These rainmakers typically have client books of about US$200m.

Apart from the front office, John Koh, managing director, WMRC, says other related job roles like compliance, risk management and credit are also in demand.

Distrust and demand

Has the reported client dissatisfaction dampened hiring in private banking?

Gwee says: “There are definitely higher hiring standards now. The demand is the same, but requirements are higher; that’s why banks are only looking at hiring senior bankers. Firms are no longer just looking at the banker’s portfolio; they’re also looking at staying power – if candidates have less than three years of experience at a firm, it’ll definitely be difficult to get their clients to move over.”

John Koh, managing director, WMRC, adds: “If anything, with more uncertainties and volatilities in the current financial markets, rich clients in Asia need their private bankers more than ever before.

“Wealth management is a tough professional practice and clients do not have all the answers when it comes to managing their money, hence there will always be a strong need for wealth management professionals to give quality advice at reasonable fees.”

To move or not to move

Most candidates are more reluctant to change firms this late in the year because they may lose their bonus. However, Koh says: “There are still movements in the job market and prospective employers are willing to offer a sign-on bonus if the hire is a compelling one.”

Candidates should look beyond compensation, advises Gwee. The move has to make sense – whether it’s in terms of product platform, the direction of the firm or its strengths.

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