In a new interview with the Straits Times, Ong Yeng Fang, the head of UOB Private Bank, says the division wants to employ 100 relationship managers (RMs) by the end of December – up from just 50 last year. To put this into context – no private bank achieved anything like that rapid a growth rate in 2014, according to data from Asian Private Banker. The highest percentage increase for an RM workforce was 36% from LGT.
“We always had a private bank, but it was relatively small. The management has given commitment to build this to a different level,” Ong told the newspaper, without explaining how the headcount surge would take place.
One recruiter in Singapore believes that UOB is promoting some of its mass-affluent ‘privilege banking’ RMs into private banking roles – those whose clients are rising up into the millionaire class. Ong hints at this in the Straits Times, saying that she wants to offer private banking services to existing UOB clients as one of the main ways UOB Private Bank intends to grow.
UOB will also be hiring externally, although it faces enormous competition – not least from local rivals DBS and Bank of Singapore (OCBC’s private banking arm), both of whom boast larger private banks which are still expanding. DBS announced in June that it wants to grow its private banking assets by 40% to US$100bn in less than three years – which could mean it needs about 100 new RMs over the same period. BoS added 100 new staff, including RMs, in 2014.
Moreover, as we pointed out in detail earlier this month, it is becoming increasingly difficult for banks outside the top-20 by assets under management in Asia (this includes UOB) to attract top relationship managers, despite their plans for growth.
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