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Why you won’t get an “obscene” salary at UBS or Credit Suisse in Asia

Why you won’t get an “obscene” salary at UBS or Credit Suisse in Asia

UBS and Credit Suisse are hiring more relationship managers in Asia as they focus on capturing more assets from the region’s millionaires and billionaires.

But with just about every other bank growing their Asian wealth units, have the region’s two largest private banks been forced to lure candidates with above-average salaries? Industry experts suggest not.

“UBS and CS can pay attractive salaries, but they’re mostly reserved for strategic hires such as market heads and team heads,” says Liu San Li, an ex-private banker, now head of banking at search firm IGS Asia in Singapore. “They pay their less-senior RMs well, but the boutique private banks usually outbid them easily.”

Several boutiques – notably EFG, LGT, Safra Sarasin, UBP, and VP Bank – are all expanding in Asia in 2017.

UBS and Credit Suisse offer pay rises of 15% to 20% to new recruits in Singapore and Hong Kong, says Rahul Sen, a former Merrill Lynch private banker, now head of wealth management at search firm The Omerta Group. While this sounds substantial, the average rise offered to RMs in across the industry in Hong Kong is currently 20%, according to a survey we conducted last month.

“You could get the same percentage or more at other firms,” says Sen. “UBS and CS are quite stubborn – they’re the big guns and they know they can attract good bankers without offering obscene salaries.”

The two Swiss giants have stricter salary bands than their smaller competitors in Asia, which can sometimes rule out even a 15% pay hike for a new joiner, he adds. At UBS, for example, director-level RM base pay is usually capped at about US$250k, so if you’re already earning close to that at your current bank, UBS is unlikely to offer you a big rise.

UBS and Credit Suisse won’t give you a large bonus percentage either. As we reported in our private banking compensation survey, their average range is 8% to 12% – well below that of other private banks in Asia.

But while the percentage may be small, your actual bonus figure is likely to be competitive.

“There are RMs at UBS and CS who produce much higher revenues than they would elsewhere because they have more options in each product category and have tier-one product support and platforms,” says Liu. “This can collectively lead to more revenue generated to compensate for a lower bonus ratio.”

“Product platforms at UBS are a major drawcard for RMs,” adds Sen. “At UBS an RM can create a structured product sitting at their desk, while at Standard Chartered you need to ask four other people and it will take four days to get it done.”

Candidates are increasingly attracted by the investment banking products that Credit Suisse and UBS are encouraging RMs to offer entrepreneurial private clients, says Clarence Law, a Singapore-based private banking consultant.

Beyond any product advantage, though, UBS and Credit Suisse enjoy better brand recognition in Asia than their rivals. “This makes joining them an easier sell for the banker’s clients and therefore for the banker,” says Law.

Image credit: Getty

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