The Swiss are bucking the trend. While foreign firms like HSBC have been moving certain functions away from Japan, Credit Suisse has just launched a new private banking operation in Tokyo.
The firm’s new services are being provided through its banking entity, Credit Suisse Tokyo Branch, and its securities entity, Credit Suisse Securities, and are aimed at wealthy individuals, families and corporations with more than one billion yen in financial assets.
The currently 40-strong Japan private banking team is comprised of relationship managers, product specialists, researchers, controllers and back-office support, and Credit Suisse could be looking to add to that number.
Juliette Leong, an Asia-Pacific spokesperson for the firm, says it is aiming to strategically upgrade its talent pool – particularly with regard to senior advisors – and hire more top talent across Asia Pacific.
Securing good private banking talent in Japan might not be easy though. Kevin Naylor, team manager of the financial services division at Wall Street Associates, says there is a shortage of private banking candidates who can fit the model of foreign firms and who will consider working in one.
Naylor says the combination of language differences, higher sales targets and greater business development pressure in overseas banks can be a turn-off for potential Japanese candidates. “Many bankers will not risk the jump and loss of security only for promises of more cash. Stability is key for most candidates in the current market,” he adds.
For middle and back-office roles, Western firms like Credit Suisse need candidates with knowledge of retail regulations in order to open accounts. They must also have experience with the complex products that these banks use to attract clients, says Naylor.
And that presents a dilemma. Candidates who know the products, he says, are likely to come from securities firms which may be too aggressive in terms of cultural fit, while candidates who come from retail securities backgrounds rarely have strong English skills or deep product knowledge.
Byron Sato, a financial markets recruiter at Michael Page Japan, says this is a skills gap for which there is no easy answer.
“Naturally there will be poaching between the firms for the experienced people in the market, but in the longer term investing in training is critical, since shortcuts will be increasingly hard to find. We’re being asked to hunt the high-potential juniors from the retail side, as well as corporate bankers who have good CFO/CEO networks and who are capable of making the switch,” Sato adds.