Why Standard Chartered finds it hard to hire private bankers in Singapore and Hong Kong

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Why Standard Chartered finds it hard to hire private bankers in Asia

It all looked so promising for Standard Chartered’s private bank in Asia back in 2016. Didier Von Daeniken had joined from Barclays as Stan Chart’s Singapore-based global private banking boss and had recruited his North Asia and Southeast Asia heads – Vivian Chan and Srinivas Siripurapu, respectively – from his old firm. About 10 other ex-Barclays relationship managers also came on board in Hong Kong that year.

But despite Von Daeniken’s efforts to rebuild the private bank, Stan Chart’s RMs are being successfully targeted by rivals, say headhunters. In recent months, for example, Stan Chart has lost Hong Kong-based managing directors Ray Li, Teddy Kwong and Peter Lam, the latter two of whom only joined in 2017. It is unclear at this stage which banks the three men will be joining.

Stan Chart’s headcount of Asia-based RMs only inched up by nine to reach 350 in 2017, according to the latest data from Asian Private Banker. Recruiting RMs into Stan Chart can be challenging because private banking is an underperforming unit at the firm. The division made an operating loss of $14m in 2018, compared with a loss of $1m in 2017. Assets under management were $5bn (8%) lower at the end of December than they were 12 months previously, mainly due to market volatility. By contrast, Credit Suisse’s private bank in Asia made a profit of $548m last year.

It’s not just about profits and AUM. Some RMs – perhaps unfairly – perceive Stan Chart as a retail bank rather than a “proper private bank”, says former Merrill Lynch private banker Rahul Sen, now a global leader in private wealth management at search firm Boyden. “There’s also the problem of its dual reporting structure – to both the retail and commercial bank – which makes it difficult to have a long-term strategy for enhancing is products and investment management proposition,” says Sen.

Still, Stan Chart has poached a few senior RMs in Asia over the past year, including Nakul Beri, an experienced non-resident Indian banker, who joined from Safra Sarasin. This year, the bank has a mandate to recruit more RMs in both Singapore and Hong Kong, says another headhunter with knowledge of Stan Chart. “We are continuing to invest in and hire for our private banking business in 2019,” adds a Singapore-based spokesperson for the firm.

Why would you want to leave the likes of UBS or Credit Sussie to join Stan Chart’s private bank in Asia? The firm appeals to some RMs as a sleeping giant of the wealth sector, whose business could become profitable if it can better cross sell more products from its commercial banking and corporate and institutional banking divisions to business-owning private clients. “There are tremendous opportunities for its RMs, if Stan Chart can, for example, offer more commercial banking lending and capital markets transactions,” says Sen.

Stan Chart raised the minimum investment threshold for its private bank to $5m in 2017 to focus on entrepreneurial clients who have more complex banking needs. UBS, Credit Suisse and HSBC, however, have been pursuing cross-selling strategies for longer.

Have a confidential story, tip, or comment you’d like to share? Contact: smortlock@efinancialcareers.com

Image credit: danielvfung, Getty


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