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If you know enough wealthy people in China, you could end up being a private banker

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It’s no secret that relationship managers are sought after in the mainland, but now banks in Hong Kong and the UAE are trying to lure them into jobs offshore.

Oliver Draper, director, Consult Group Asia Pacific, says it’s been a “unique” start to the year and his firm is currently recruiting more Chinese RMs into roles outside the mainland than within.

In the UAE, the focus is on commercial/SME banking RMs. “We’ve placed more RMs so far this year in the Middle East alone than we did in the whole of 2011.”

The employer brands of some Western banks in China have declined since the GFC, and PRC candidates have become much more open to joining Middle Eastern firms because of their perceived stability and growth potential. “They can work over there, get international exposure, and in two years’ time or so come back to China and leverage their international experience into an employer of choice,” says Draper.

RMs are also hot in HK

The demand for Chinese, Mandarin-speaking RMs in Hong Kong is primarily from European private banks based there. Because there are not enough private bankers with Chinese assets under management in the market, these firms sometimes have to be flexible about whom they hire.

If you’re not an RM already, having a strong network of high-net-worth mainland contacts is what banks want. “For example, we’ve placed well-connected individuals, such as the adult children of officials, into RM positions. It’s quite different to Singapore, where most firms are looking for experienced bankers who have between US$100m to $150m in AUM,” says Draper.

Chinese recruits who are new to private banking still have first-year AUM objectives, but these are less onerous than for experienced RMs, he adds. Targets for some entry-level roles are as low as $30m to $40m after 12 months.

“Although this is still niche hiring in terms of numbers, it’s also a unique opportunity for well-connected, financially-astute people to enter the private banking profession. But they will have to work very hard to attract AUM within their first 12 to 24 months otherwise their stint may be a short one.”

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