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Here’s a family-friendly career path in Asian wealth management for you to consider…

Family offices in Asia aren’t yet a massive phenomenon. Of the 6,000 or so offices globally, only 500 are based in this region, reported The New York Times earlier this month. But these offices are certainly expanding and so are their staffing needs.

Several banks – HSBC, Credit Suisse, UBS and Citigroup – have all either established or expanded their family services in Asia over the last few months. That trend is expected to continue. Richard Straus, head of Citigroup Private Bank’s newly established global family office told NYT that the number of Asian family offices could increase to 1,000 or 1,500 by 2015.

Recruitment for family offices has been on the steady upswing this year. An anonymous source told us that both European and Asian family offices (Chinese ones especially) have all been candidate hunting recently in Asia. He knows of a few Chinese family offices that are looking to “aggressively” expand next year.

Angela Kuek, head of front-office banking and financial services, Hudson, has seen demand in this niche sector double over the last 18 months. She says: “As Singapore is a wealth management hub with conditions that make it relatively easy to set up family offices (including favourable tax regulations), more offices have been set up and resourcing requirements have increased.”

Demand has, however, slowed down correspondingly with the current downbeat market. Firms are still recruiting, although the selection process is now lengthier, says Kuek.

Jansen Gwee, banking and financial services general manager, Advantage Professional, has seen a slight increase in demand of about five to 10 per cent. However, he adds that recruitment volume in this sector is never huge. He says: “Each family office is usually quite small with not more than five people. Most firms typically hire a very senior private banker or investment advisor with more than 10 years of experience and a few junior traders.”

Interested in joining a family office? Here’s a quick snapshot of the advantages and disadvantages.

Better pay (potentially)

Remuneration for key roles like portfolio managers can be very handsome. Some firms offer as much as a 20 to 30 per cent salary increment, says Gwee.

Gaining more exposure

If you are quite junior, the move could pay off, Gwee says younger candidates can build up their knowledge and experience in family offices.

Get a life

Candidates may find more work-life balance in this sector, with greater flexibility in work arrangements, says Kuek.

The drawbacks

Gwee says candidates will lose some cushy benefits, like generous leave, if they move over from banking. While base salaries at family offices are good, there can be limited upside on bonuses, says Kuek. Career progression opportunities may be limited as well because “your career growth is only as good as your relationship with your boss.”

On the whole Kuek reckons the sector will blossom in the coming years. “I believe this area will continue to grow. There are a variety of reasons: more influx of wealth to this region, some fallout between wealthy families and their private banks during the crisis years, and a preference for more flexible work arrangements may see good talent taking this career path.”

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