Credit Suisse, Stan Chart, Julius Baer hire 200+ Asian bankers in 12 months

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Last year was a busy 12 months for hiring in Asian private banking, especially at Credit Suisse, Standard Chartered, Julius Baer and UOB.

The four banks took on more relationships managers than their rivals in Asia (excluding firms involved in large acquisitions), according to the 2016 RM headcount league table from Asian Private Banker.

In 2016, Credit Suisse’s RM workforce was 60 more than the previous year. But the bank still has a lot more hiring to do as it attempts to reach a similar scale to UBS in Asia. CEO Tidjane Thiam announced in October 2015 that Credit Suisse would employ 800 RMs in Asia by December 2018 as part of a pivot towards Asian wealth management and a focus on selling investment banking products to entrepreneurial private clients.

But in terms of 2016 recruitment numbers, Credit Suisse was beaten by smaller Swiss rival Julius Baer, which added 110 RMs last year. This means it exceeded CEO Boris Collardi’s stated 2016 Asian hiring target by 10 people.

“Boris is young and ambitious, and although his bank is still far smaller in Asia than UBS and CS, he’s keen to climb the charts and continue acquiring bankers in 2017,” says former Merrill Lynch private banker Rahul Sen, now head of wealth management at search firm The Omerta Group.

Some of the new hires came from Collardi’s old employer, Credit Suisse. HSBC and Stan Chart were among the other main sources of talent, says Sen.

Standard Chartered’s recruitment of 41 private bankers last year was triggered by the appointment of Didier Von Daeniken as its Singapore-based global private banking head. Von Daeniken joined from Barclays in March 2016 and then recruited his North Asia and Southeast Asia heads – Vivian Chan and Srinivas Siripurapu respectively – from his former bank.

In October, Stan Chart took on around 10 Barclays RMs who decided not to transfer to Bank of Singapore following that firm’s takeover of Barclays’ Asian wealth unit.

Bank of Singapore owes most of its own 26.1% headcount increase to the Barclays deal. Similarly, UBP’s numbers have surged because of its buy-out of Coutts' international business last year.

UOB added 62 RMs to its ranks in 2016 and in doing so became the largest new entrant on the league table.

“It upgraded quite a few bankers and assets from its retail segment,” says Sen. “And Ong Yeng Fang, who heads UOB private bank and was hired from Julius Baer in 2014, and has been steadily recruited and improving the bank’s product suite.”

UBS is firmly ensconced at the top of the table, despite RM headcount falling by 76 last year.

“It let go of a few bankers in the first part of 2016, mainly desk and country heads who were more administrative than client-facing. It merged some teams and became leaner,” says Sen.

Vinay Gandhi, UBS’s head of ultra-high net worth for Southeast Asia, left at the end of last year. He’s now leading UHNW for Asia at Safra Sarasin, one of the expansionist boutique private banks which appear as new comers on the league table.

“I expect the headcount numbers of LGT, Safra Sarasin and other boutiques to move up in 2017 as they reinvest into their Asia businesses,” says Sen.

Image credit: tonefotografia, Getty

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