HSBC’s private bank has recruited an executive director from Bank of Singapore as its new head of equities for Southeast Asia.
Kevin Wong was an equities advisory team leader at BoS for more than three years. His new Singapore-based job at HSBC is a “significant step up”, says a headhunter with knowledge of the hire.
At HSBC, Wong is leading a “team that advises clients on the equities markets and suggests additions and subtractions to their portfolios depending on the markets”, says the headhunter.
Private banks in Asia are currently “very selective” when hiring for head of advisory roles, says former Merrill Lynch private banker Rahul Sen, now head of wealth management at search firm The Omerta Group.
“Every bank is happy to recruit a dozen or more RMs, but their advisors have to be really good in their respective asset class and be able to interact with clients and RMs,” says Sen.
Wong’s move does not signify the start of a hiring drive at HSBC. While it is Asia’s fourth largest private bank by assets under management, its RM headcount only increased from 450 to 470 between 2012 and 2016.
“It’s hiring a bit, but it’s being selective and bankers with aggressive clients always feel that its platform supports more conservative portfolios,” says Sen.
By contrast, Bank of Singapore is one of Asia’s most expansionist wealth managers, although Wong’s move shows it is still prone to losing staff as well as adding them.
After acquiring Barclays’ Asian wealth unit last year, BoS now has about 400 relationship managers, up from 314 in 2015. It has recruited more than 20 RMs in 2017, including veteran banker Harjeet Singh. CEO Bahren Shaari says BoS will “continue to hire” this year.
But while BoS is still in the midst of integrating staff from Barclays, it remains vulnerable to poaching raids, say headhunters. HSBC isn’t the only rival eyeing its employees – Standard Chartered has a “blank cheque” to hire more ex-Barclays RMs after several of them moved last year.
Wong began his career as a structured products dealer at Citi in 2005 and moved to into equities advisory in 2007 at UBS, where he worked for seven years and reached director rank.
Image credit: bunhill, Getty