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The many joys of jobs at multi-family offices in Asia

You manage their money; they stay happy

You manage their money; they stay happy

Multi-family offices in Singapore and Hong Kong are increasingly recruiting private bankers; enticing them with the prospect of more flexibility regarding compensation, geographical coverage, products and management.

In Asia, these firms typically service three or more wealthy families and each manage between about US$400m and US$600m. Rahul Sen, executive director, Gibson Tullberg, says that with private wealth growing in the region, entrepreneurial European family offices are looking to set up in Singapore and Hong Kong to attract new clients.

Family offices need more people to support their Asian expansion, but the industry’s small talent pool means poaching off competitors isn’t usually an option, says Sen. There are therefore hiring private bankers, typically those with 15 to 20 years’ experience.

Although European-headquartered family offices are open to relocating bankers from Europe into Singapore or Hong Kong, in many cases they prefer those who manage European clients but are already based in Asia, he adds. Hong Kong family offices are also recruiting PRC nationals who are working as private bankers in Hong Kong covering the Greater China region.

Yes, but would you join one?

Family offices can have advantages over private banks. For example, they tend to be transparent with compensation. “They are more flexible and pay more in proportion to the amount of business that you generate. If you bring in $1m, you are certain to bring 30 to 50 per cent of that home,” says Sen.

They are less likely to stick you in a geographical silo. “Clients today have business across the region and globally, too. This is especially true for international property transactions, which are an important part of their portfolio. Multi-family offices provide the flexibility to acquire and manage clients across countries.”  

By contrast, in a large private bank, mainly for compliance reasons, you typically handle only one market. “If the client wants to do a deal in another country, you often have to give it up to someone else at your bank.”

Sen says another attraction is the variety of products. “You can continue to manage, say, UBS products, but you can work with those from other banks, too. You can go for the best opportunities for the client, providing them with the best-priced product.”

There are fewer layers of management to deal with in a family office. “It’s less hierarchical. In a small operation, you are constantly in touch with the owner of the business or chairman of the group, and that matters a lot to some people. At a large firm, you may never even meet the global head of private banking.”

Private bankers may also want to escape office politics. “There is usually more of this in a bank. It can be a prime motivator for people to leave.”

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