Singapore may have overtaken Switzerland as the world’s fastest growing wealth management hub, but that isn’t making European private bankers flock to jobs in the city state.
Wealthy European clients aren’t moving much of their money to be managed in Singapore, making it tough for European relationship managers to land private banking jobs in Singapore.
“The European share of private banking assets in Singapore has been relatively stable, despite stories you sometimes hear about funds being diverted to Asia,” Ravi Menon, managing director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore, told the Central Banking Journal in a recent interview.
Singapore was “not the place to come” to escape tough European rules on tax avoidance and money-laundering, Menon added. “There is a perception that as standards in these areas are tightened in the EU, centres like Switzerland, Luxembourg, Singapore and Hong Kong are likely to gain. That is not true.”
Private banking headhunters in Singapore say that they still receive regular enquires from relationship managers based in Europe, but compared with five years ago, far fewer of them are actually getting job interviews – let alone job offers.
“European bankers will only be able to move here if they can bring assets from European clients to Singapore,” says Clarence Law, a Singapore-based business advisor in private banking. “This is difficult, so realistically it’s unlikely that banks in Singapore will find the value in them.”
“Singapore and Hong Kong follow the Financial Action Task Force [FATF] regulations diligently. Non-tax paid money cannot come into Singapore,” adds Rahul Sen, an ex-private banker and a director at headhunters Sheffield Haworth in Singapore. “Recruitment is similar: new EU-coverage bankers are asked for client details – on a confidential basis – and only when the bank is convinced will they hire them.”
By contrast, private banks in Singapore are stepping up their hiring of relationship managers with Asian, especially Southeast Asian, clients. “Banks’ focus is undoubtedly to grow assets under management from Asian clients,” says Law.
So keen are private banks in Singapore to snare local and regional clients that they are hiring priority bankers – who serve “mass affluent” retail consumers – when they can’t fill vacancies by grooming their own private bankers or by poaching them from rivals.
While UBS, Citi, Credit Suisse and JP Morgan are the five largest wealth managers in Asia by assets – according to a Private Banker International study – much of current hiring of is from firms outside this elite group, who are eager to eke out market share in a region where wealth among millionaires may soon top North America’s.
Boutique banks UBP, Bordier & Cie, EFG, Pictet and Safra Sarasin are among those recruiting, according to a Singapore headhunter who asked not to be named. Asian banks are also looking for relationship managers – in particular Bank of Singapore, UOB, CIMB and DBS, which announced earlier this year that it was buying Societe Generale’s private banking business in Singapore and Hong Kong.