March has been a busy month for Western banks to talk up their expansion plans in Asian private banking. Morgan Stanley wants to expand its front-office headcount in the sector by 10% to 20% this year – and for the foreseeable future after that – with a focus on Singapore. And Tidjane Thiam’s appointment as the next CEO of Credit Suisse means it is expected to increase its already aggressive hiring of relationship managers (RMs) in Hong Kong and Singapore.
Now it’s the turn of UBS, the largest manager of private wealth in Asia. UBS chief executive Sergio Ermotti has told Reuters that he plans to “substantially increase” the 500 people his bank employs in China over the next decade, with the majority of the new hires entering the wealth management business. “We do expect wealth creation to be a big theme in China,” he said. “The Chinese business is a very big business and a very important business, in terms of profitability and scope and size.”
Finding experienced private bankers working onshore in China will be difficult, even for UBS, whose RM headcount across Asia increased 15% last year to reach 1,186 – larger than any of its rivals. Private banking is an underdeveloped part of Chinese financial services and talent shortages there are even more extreme than they are in Hong Kong and Singapore. Many Chinese private bankers prefer to work offshore because of limited product ranges available to them at home.
UBS may well decide to cast a wide recruitment net in China, targetting corporate bankers and investment bankers whose strong relationships with business owners could make them successful transferees into private banking
Chim Wai Kin, the chief credit officer of Bank of China, has left his job as China imposes pay cuts on senior bankers. (Bloomberg)
ICBC posts first quarterly decline in profit since 2009 as provisions for bad loans more than doubled. (Bloomberg)
It’s becoming a nightmare for small companies to open bank accounts in Hong Kong. (South China Morning Post)
Chinese banks are using Western methods to sell off bad loans. (Reuters)
Bank of Communications 2014 profits up, but behind 2013 pace. (South China Morning Post)
Your next client meeting in China could be on the ski slopes, not the golf course. (Wall Street Journal)