The second half of the year is typically a time when banks in Asia become more restrained with their recruitment and banking professionals stay put and focus next year's bonus.
But if you are looking to move banking jobs in Singapore or Hong Kong in the next six months, there are a few firms who are still planning to boost their headcount in certain sectors. Here’s our pick of Asia’s most expansionist banks.
Late last year, BTMU announced that its transaction-banking headcount in Singapore, which stood at 60, would be expanded in a bid to win more business from some 180 Japanese corporates who have regional headquarters in the city state. This hiring is continuing into the second half of 2015, says a recruiter who specialises in the sector and asked to remain anonymous because of client confidentiality. BTMU faces formidable competition, however, and not only from global heavyweights like HSBC and Standard Chartered – Japanese rival Mizuho is also staffing up in Singapore.
It hasn’t provided any headcount targets but the private banking unit of China Merchants Bank is set to hire in Hong Kong and Singapore as part of a “major global expansion that will eventually pit the eight-year-old operation against some of the world’s most storied private banking institutions,” the South China Morning Post reported last month. China Merchants’ private bank, which opened its doors in Hong Kong last month, is due to set up in Singapore by December. The firm is bound to face recruitment challenges when it tries to expand in both cities. It is currently not in the top-20 for either AUM or headcount in Asian private banking and the sector’s job market is already highly competitive and short of talent.
Citi may be ringing the changes to its Asian management team and rapidly expanding its Chinese branch network, but in Singapore and Hong Kong it’s also hiring in the middle office. As we reported recently, the US firm has 58 compliance and risk vacancies in those cities combined – more than any other global bank apart from Standard Chartered. Of these jobs, 39 are in compliance, making Citi the most active Asian recruiter in this sought-after sector.
Credit Suisse hired about 50 relationship managers in Asia in 2014, taking its total RM headcount to 490. In March this year Francois Monnet, the firm’s chief operating officer of Asia Pacific private banking, told us that hiring was proceeding at a similarly aggressively rate. The appointment of Tidjane Thiam as Credit Suisse’s new CEO is expected to further accelerate this growth – and headhunters do not expect the firm’s thirst for RMs to slacken in the second half. “Our business is very people driven so absolutely, we are looking to hire,” Francesco de Ferrari, head of private banking at Credit Suisse, told Finance Asia last month.
While DBS has grabbed recent headlines with plans to boost its private banking headcount, recruiters in Singapore also expect it to be hiring in digital banking over the next six months. This hiring surge is driven from the top. CEO Piyush Gupta, a man who believes that banks should behave more like technology companies, is “spending billions” digitising DBS, from back-office systems to client-facing platforms.
It only opened its private banking unit 18 months ago, but Maybank is now ramping up its recruitment. The firm wants to grow its 40-strong headcount of RMs to between 60 and 80, Alvin Lee, group head of private wealth management for Maybank, told Asian Investor last month, without outlining a timescale. Maybank’s expansion will be concentrated on Southeast Asia, in particular Singapore, its hub for private banking. While not a top-tier private bank, this regional focus could make Maybank an appealing destination for RMs with a Southeast Asian client book looking to escape the bureaucracy of larger firms.
OCBC wants finance professional with cross-border experience as it increasingly looks to help Chinese clients invest in Southeast Asia. The Singaporean bank is set to “deepen its presence” in Malaysia and Indonesia because these “resource-rich countries” are “naturally attractive investment destinations for Chinese companies”, CEO Samuel Tsien told the Today newspaper last month. The jobs it will create in the process appear to be spread across several divisions. “We bring our core businesses of retail and commercial banking, wealth management and insurance to each market,” says Tsien.
Stan Chart’s new plans for its Asian workforce haven’t been nailed down yet, but new CEO Bill Winters is planning to “shift capital” to regional hubs, including Singapore and Hong Kong. While Winters may look to trim some investment banking and regional-level management jobs in Asia, he may hire for locally-focused client-facing positions, in particular corporate banking RMs, says a Singapore-based headhunter. “Country client segments at SCB in Singapore, where local relationships and expertise are required, will be fine under the new regime – as will people in credit, risk, and compliance,” she adds.
UBS is opening a new office in Kowloon – which will house 50 employees, including 30 RMs, when it opens early next year – in an effort to attract wealthy clients who aren’t keen on crossing the harbour to Central. The Swiss bank has already poached RMs from local rivals in Kowloon, says Claude Humair, UBS Wealth Management’s regional market manager for Hong Kong. And it will hire 10 more RMs and four more wealth planners in advance of the opening, presumably luring them with better compensation and a superior product platform.
The US bank is expanding its 1,400-strong wholesale banking team in Asia, adding some 140 new staff in the region over the next 10 months, mainly in corporate banking and compliance. But as we reported in May, Wells Fargo is recruiting in two of the most buoyant and talent-short parts of Asian financial services. It may have to fork out pay rises of 20% or more to poach people away from rivals like Citi, HSBC and Standard Chartered who have a much larger regional presence.