Citi’s plan to bolster its private banking recruitment in Singapore has taken a step forward with the hire of Bobby Effendi, a Bank of Singapore director. Effendi has joined Citi Private Bank to serve ultra-high-net-worth (UHNW) clients.
His move follows a revamp of Citi’s talent strategy undertaken last year. While the bank has traditionally focused on grooming its own relationship managers in Asia, it’s also now aiming to recruit more RMs from competitors. “Over the last few years our front-office headcount in this region has been very stable, while many of our competitors have been aggressively increasing theirs,” Jyrki Rauhio, South Asia head of Citi Private Bank, told us in 2018. “That’s partly because we have a very low turnover rate, which reduced the need for us to expand. Now we want to be slightly more aggressive ourselves, with a primary focus on the quality of talent.”
Rauhio is currently expanding his own team of South Asia bankers – which is primarily based in Singapore and covers markets such as Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines. Citi has more than 200 private bankers across Asia, split 60/40 between Hong Kong and Singapore.
Citi’s Asian private banking expansion won’t necessarily be straightforward, given talent shortages in the wealth sector and rampant recruitment by some of its rivals. UBS added 101 private bankers in Asia in 2018 alone, while firms including HSBC, Deutsche Bank and Julius Baer have also been adding to their workforces.
Still, Effendi’s move suggests that Citi has clout in the job market. UHNW is the most competitive hiring segment within Asian private banking. Standard Chartered, for example, has upped its minimum investment threshold to focus more on UHNW, while the Asian wealth arms of US banks like Goldman Sachs only recruit people to serve the mega rich.
What’s the best way for bankers like Effendi to succeed at Citi? An understanding of all the bank’s products – from investment banking to credit cards – is crucial as many of Citi’s private clients are also business owners, Rauhio told us. And while Citi RMs must “embrace technology” for day-to-day transactions the firm’s approach to private banking remains “high touch,” he adds. “For example, our clients in Asia are increasingly talking about alternative investments such as private equity and hedge funds. You can’t just throw these types of complex investments into a client’s portfolio and model them online. Clients want to ask their RMs detailed questions before they make an investment decision – they want human interaction.”
Effendi had been with Bank of Singapore (BoS) since its founding in 2010, when BoS parent company OCBC completed the aquisition of Effendi’s former employer, ING Asia Private Bank, a firm he joined in 2008. The growth of BoS since then – it’s now the eighth largest private bank in Asia by assets and has more than 400 RMs – means it’s now large enough to be a prime headhunting ground for other firms. In August, BoS managing director Clarence Lee joined UOB, while BoS non-resident Indian banker Sajal Arora left for BNP Paribas earlier last year.
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