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SocGen could be private bankers’ preferred destination in Japan

Societe Generale Private Banking Japan has announced plans to hire more than 10 people between now and the end of 2011. According to a report by Bloomberg, the positions will be predominantly for actual private bankers as the company expands from its current headcount of 120.

But there could be difficulties for SocGen and other private banks when it comes to acquiring private bankers in Tokyo. The problem? Tokyo has a dearth of available, high-end talent.

“To find and hire private bankers is never an easy task. The paradox lies in the fact if they were so good, why would they need to apply elsewhere? If they were applying elsewhere, they were presumably no good in the first place,” says Shah Haque, a consultant at Hays Banking.

Haque says most companies expect candidates to have at least 500 million yen in transferable assets. “Some require more, some smaller banks require less, SocGen is no different. Most candidates find it hard to bring more than 15-20% of their clients’ assets in as they are tied up in investments with specified time periods,” he says.

There is, of course, a positive side to the talent shortage, says Warwick Pearmund, a consultant at Slate Consulting-talented candidates with a good book of business are in strong demand. SocGen’s not the only one on the lookout for talent. He doesn’t, however, expect anyone to think about moving until after bonuses have been banked.

And there might be some good news for SocGen too. Haque says that in the battle to attract talent and AUM, the French bank probably has an edge.

“SocGen is one of the more trusted foreign private banks among the main four. While Swiss PB’s are normally the most trusted, Credit Suisse scored no points with the Japanese market by closing and reopening their PB operations. UBS is their strongest competitor,” says Haque.

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