BNP Paribas needs to recruit about 120 relationship managers in Singapore and Hong Kong to achieve its new goal of being a top-five private bank in Asia by assets under management, say headhunters.
Vincent Lecomte, the French bank’s co-chief executive announced the objective last week, revealing a three to five-year timescale, but not AUM or hiring numbers.
Industry sources we spoke with, however, expect BNP Paribas to increase its recruitment this year and ultimately add about 120 new bankers in Asia.
Fourth and fifth places in the AUM league table for Asia are currently held by HSBC ($108bn in assets) and Julius Baer ($82.4bn) respectively, while BNP Paribas is in eighth spot ($74bn). UBS, Citi and Credit Suisse are significantly ahead of the competition.
By early next decade – when BNP Paribas expects to break into the elite group – the top-five threshold is likely to have risen to about $110bn. “The banks above BNP will be growing their assets too, so it needs to add at least $36bn to its AUM in the next few years,” says former Merrill Lynch private banker Rahul Sen, now head of wealth management at search firm The Omerta Group.
Ominously, the firm that BNP Paribas will most probably need to displace from the top-five, Julius Baer, increased its Asian assets by 9.7% between 2015 and 2016 and hired about 110 relationship managers last year.
While BNP Paribas will grow its AUM by extracting more money from existing clients and by deepening the relationship between wealth management and its corporate and institutional bank, it will also need to increase its headcount of Asian RMs, which currently stands at about 270.
How many will it need to hire? The average banker at BNP Paribas currently looks after $274.1m, but the firm will try to boost this per-head figure to about $300m in the near future, says Sen.
Getting another $36bn in assets on board would therefore require 120 new RMs, who would in time each have $300m on their books. That’s 24 RMs a year over five years, or 40 in three years.
This estimated headcount goal pales in comparison to the official objectives of UBS (hiring 100 RMs in Hong Kong over the next two years) and Credit Suisse (recruiting 180 across Asia by 2018), but still it represents a significant increase for BNP Paribas. In 2015 and 2016 combined the French bank added 34 private bankers in Asia.
HSBC private bankers will be among its main targets. “HSBC has a similarly conservative investment strategy. Wealthy clients in Asia look to both HSBC and BNP Paribas to park their ‘safe’ money, and they bank elsewhere when they want aggressive credit in their portfolios,” says Sen.
BNP Paribas will also target former Coutts International RMs, some of who are “dissatisfied with life at their new owner, Union Bancaire Privée”, says another headhunter we spoke with.
Despite its conservative reputation, BNP Paribas should prove attractive to some bankers. “You don’t need to sell a move to BNP to your clients as you would with some of the other firms that are hiring in Asia. It’s an easy name to sell because it’s a global brand,” says Sen.
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