If you work in Asian private banking and you are in the mood for a new job, you can count yourself (comparatively) lucky. As we reported this week, for example, UBS has been hiring in large numbers in your sector. HSBC also has ambitious new headcount targets.
And if you don’t want to join a global banking giant, a more obscure option is emerging: Pictet. Until recently the Geneva-based firm hasn’t been the hottest boutique on the block in Asia. While Pictet has had an office in Hong Kong since 1986 and in Singapore since 1995, it ranks outside the top-20 private banks regionally by RM headcount and assets under management, according to the latest available figures from Asian Private Banker.
Pictet’s rather dull reputation among private bankers in Asia first began to change 13 months ago with the surprise appointment of Boris Collardi as its co-head of global wealth management. Collardi previously oversaw Julius Baer’s dramatic growth across Asia during his tenure as that firm’s chief executive.
Now Pictet is finally behaving like all expansionist private banks in Asia – it’s talking up its hiring plans. Its senior partner, Nicolas Pictet, told the Financial Times this week that the bank had approved plans to take on 300 new staff in 2019 and that Asia (along with Switzerland and the Middle East) would be a focus of the expansion. This year’s target is more than 50% higher than last year’s.
Mr Pictet’s pronouncement was short on details – he didn’t say how many of the 300 would be RMs (rather than product and support staff) based in Singapore or Hong Kong. A finance industry insider with knowledge of the bank, however, estimated that the number of new Asian RMs hired this year would total around 40, roughly double Pictet’s current banker headcount.
Still, don’t expect Pictet to embark on a Julius Baer-style hiring spree (that bank took on about 100 RMs in 2016 alone) anytime soon. “Pictet doesn’t need to grow as fast as JB because it isn’t listed and doesn’t face quarterly AUM and revenue pressures from shareholders,” says former Merrill Lynch private banker Rahul Sen, now a global leader in private wealth management at search firm Boyden.
Last year Pictet poached 18 bankers from Julius Baer in the Middle East and it may target Collardi’s former firm as it hires in Asia this year. “It will be able to recruit bankers from JB and from other banks in Asia, too,” says Sen. “Pictet is well respected in Europe, but it hasn’t been as successful in Asia in the past. All this could change under Collardi as he’s always attracted senior talent and given them a strong balance sheet to grow the business.”
A job at Pictet will typically appeal to bankers whose clients “don’t need too much risk in their portfolios”, adds Sen.
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