Union Bancaire Privee is set to become a much bigger player among boutique private banks in Asia. But it may want to be bigger still.
Its deal to buy the international operations of Coutts will add 115 relationship managers (RMs) to its workforce in the region, according to figures from Asian Private Banker. This is believed to more than double its existing client-facing Asian headcount – the Swiss firm currently ranks outside the top-20 private banks in Asia for both assets under management and headcount.
UBP is expected to retain most of the Coutts bankers after the takeover because there is unlikely to be much, if any, substantial client duplication between the two boutique firms. When DBS acquired the Asian private banking assets of Societe Generale in 2014 most of the French firm’s RMs stayed on.
Taking on the Coutts’ RMs is unlikely to be the end of UBP’s Asian expansion, though. Headhunters in Singapore say it will continue to poach RMs from rivals, such is the pressure on private banks to expand their businesses to capture market share from Asia’s growing army of millionaires. UBP faces a range of boutique European competitors in Asia that are all experiencing double-digit annual headcount growth. LGT and Pictet both expanded their front-office teams by 36% and 32% respectively last year – higher percentages than UBS, Credit Suisse, Citi or any of the larger wealth managers.
While talent shortages continue to grip the private banking sector in Asia, bankers in the region are at least starting to become more open to joining boutiques. “Some senior bankers are tired of the rigidity and politics of the big private banks. Bankers are keen to move to firms that are more flexible and still have a reasonably good product platform,” Rahul Sen, head of private wealth management at search firm The Omerta Group in Singapore, told us last month.
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