J.P. Morgan’s is adding client-facing staff to its Asian private bank this year and it wants them in the mould of CEO Jamie Dimon, says a Singapore-based managing director.
But unlike some of its rivals – UBS is hiring 100 RMs in Hong Kong and Credit Suisse is recruiting 180 across Asia – the US bank is not setting headcount targets, says Christophe Aba, regional head of investments for Southeast Asia at J.P. Morgan.
“Our motto is to be the best private bank in Asia, not the biggest, so we’re not as affected by the talent shortage in the industry as some are,” says Aba. “We’re always looking for talented relationship managers and investment advisors – I had coffee with three quality potential candidates recently, for example.”
Aba, who leads a team of about 20 investment advisors (IAs), is currently focused on finding “elite talent, at the right of the bell curve”. “If we only add a handful of people each year, that’s ok,” he says.
Unsurprisingly, Aba is looking for senior IAs with strong backgrounds in financial markets. But because IAs at J.P. Morgan regularly attend client meetings, they must also be able to “take complex financial terminology and make it easily understood for clients without losing any of the critical information”.
And like relationship managers, IAs also need good people skills. “You can be the smartest person in the world, but if you can’t relate to colleagues and clients you won’t succeed. If all you can talk about is the Singapore dollar or interest rates, you won’t cut it as an IA,” says Aba.
If you want a role model for combining technical and communication skills, look to the top of J.P. Morgan. “Jamie Dimon is a wonderful example of someone who’s both very intelligent and very plain spoken,” says Aba.
J.P. Morgan in Singapore also recruits IAs at a graduate level. “When hiring juniors, I look for attitude and aptitude. I’m not looking for technical specialists, but I do want you to show a passion for the business. J.P. Morgan can provide the technical skills – we spend $320m annually on learning and development,” says Aba.
Don’t just depend on your grades and submitting a great application to get a graduate job at J.P. Morgan. Aba says it’s critical to “engage” with interviewers so you come across as “authentic”.
He likes to nudge graduate interviewees in this direction by asking them what they are “passionate about”.
“Too many young people say what they think they want us to hear, rather than being authentic,” says Aba. “If it’s an open-ended question, I don’t need to agree with your answer or share your point of view – I want to understand what you think and why you think that way. Don’t take the consensus approach.”
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