Priority, privilege, preferred (we’ll use the former): whatever you call them, these bankers are in high demand and short supply as local and international firms target the rising wealth of Asia’s middle classes. Banks are battling with each other for staff and when that doesn’t work, they sometimes even search outside the financial sector.
“Recruitment is very busy at the moment for these revenue-generating roles. You can’t bring in foreign talent because they won’t know the market and the customers. It has to be local hiring,” says Pan Zaixian, associate director, financial services and legal division, Robert Walters.
Standard Chartered is leading the charge and is currently recruiting 800 to 850 new relationship managers in Asia. “Stand Chart is being aggressive in the market, but it has no choice, that’s the only way to get talent. Citi is also recruiting hard to get new relationship managers for its Citigold service,” says one headhunter who asked not to be named.
Singapore is Asia’s hiring hotbed for priority banking as established locals like DBS and UOB take on expanding international players such as Stand Chart, Citi and ANZ. The domestic banks have built up large client databases, so the people they recruit are often described in the industry as ‘farmers’ instead of ‘hunters’.
“Those foreign banks which are newer to the market need hunters to build up market share and they will pay them high commissions. But candidates who move sometimes find it tough to meet targets in their new, more commission-based environment,” says Pan.
Because recruitment is rising so rapidly, some banks will consider mid-career professionals from other industries, and then provide them with product training, says the anonymous headhunter.
“But this depends on how opened mined the hiring manager is. Sales skills are usually required, but I know of a teacher once being recruited. This can be risky. Often things don’t work out and the firm then needs to backfill,” she adds.
Priority bankers in Singapore usually earn monthly base salaries of between about S$4k and S$8k, although they can potentially double that with commission. Banks have different definitions of priority customers, but typically they have assets to invest of about US$150k.
Priority banking no longer provides a platform into private banking where client wealth is much higher. “There’s a steady turnover in priority banking because it’s so sales driven,” adds Pan.
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