A plethora of banks have announced expansions in Asian wealth management so far this year – Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse started the ball rolling in March, while DBS revealed earlier this month that it wants to grow private banking assets by 40%.
Not to be outdone, Citi yesterday outlined even bolder plans: it aims to double the number of wealth-management clients in Asia in the next five years to one million, Jonathan Larsen, the bank’s global head of retail banking and head of consumer banking for Asia Pacific, told the Wall Street Journal.
What this exactly means for its headcount remains unclear – Larsen says more relationship managers (RMs) will need to be brought on board, but not at quite the same dramatic rate as the two-fold client increase.
Citi is coming late to the party in terms of ramping up its Asian wealth hiring. Although its 450-strong RM workforce puts it in third place behind UBS and Credit Suisse, its headcount stayed stagnant between 2012 and 2014 – period in which some of its rivals experienced double-digit growth.
Citi seems unlikely to rely solely on new technology platforms to capture new clients, however. While Citi and other banks, notably Credit Suisse, are beefing up online services to Asian millionaires, this hasn’t yet come at the expense of their bankers – the talent shortage in Asian wealth management remains as severe as ever. If clients “are working across multiple currencies” and are investing in real estate, for example, “you’re going to need more than a robo adviser,” Larsen told the Wall Street Journal, stressing the continued importance of relationship managers at the bank.
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