The term “aggressive hiring” is usually used by recruiters rather than senior bankers, but these were the words chosen by Alex Thursby, ANZ’s head of Asia Pacific, Europe and America, to describe his hiring plans in Asian wealth management.
ANZ wants to double its wealth management business in Asia over the next three to four years, Thursby told Reuters. Most of the growth will likely be in China and Vietnam, although the bank also has wealth management operations in Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Taiwan.
Nobody doubts Thursby’s thirst for talent and the bank has already increased its headcount in Asia through its purchase of RBS businesses. However, sustaining growth in wealth management may be altogether trickier.
There’s the obvious issue of the skill shortage that afflicts both mass-affluent and private banking. Almost every bank is either trying to expand or establish a presence in wealth management, so ANZ faces stiff competition and a limited pool of relationship managers.
More specifically, say Singapore recruiters with knowledge of the firm, in order to grow ANZ must first reduce the staff the turnover it has suffered since the RBS acquisition.
One headhunter, who asked not to be named, says the bank is working to improve its products and processes. “But it’s having integration problems at the moment. We’ve placed a few RMs there recently and they all called us after a couple of months saying that things are a bit messy. Documentation and operations aren’t as good as they could be.”
The hope is that ANZ’s expansion will include back and middle-office staff to better support the new RMs, she adds.
Another recruiter says in a competitive job market the Australian firm must avoid being viewed as “just another wealth manager on the block”. He says: “Candidates will ask why they should come to you unless you are paying over the odds or offering something special.”
Within private banking, ANZ needs to improve its brand recognition. It is not recruiting as forcefully as Julius Baer or growing its reputation as quickly as Bank of Singapore, he says.
At the very least, however, Thursby’s announcement generates the type of positive publicity that we’ve also seen from firms in Asia such as Standard Chartered, J.P. Morgan,
Citi and UBS over the past year.
“It’s certainly a trend at the moment to talk up your hiring but sometimes we need to treat this with a pinch of salt. UBS and J.P. Morgan aren’t anywhere close to meeting their recruitment targets for private banking in Singapore,” adds the second headhunter.