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Coutts is hiring, not firing in Asia: Global HR head Elsa Critchley tells us more

Elsa Critchley

Elsa Critchley

Q: What are the hiring plans for Coutts in Singapore and Hong Kong? What sort of volumes is the firm looking to hire in each market and which specific functions are in demand?

EC: I think we’re quite ambitious; we’re looking to increase headcount by 50 per cent by 2015. Most of that will focus on private bankers, although we will also hire in functions like risk and investment management. We want to broaden the breath of our wealth offering to clients, so we’re looking for investment specialists, people in general products and services and estate planners. It’s quite ambitious, but we’re looking at quality over quantity; it’s really important for us to get the right people and that will take some time.

Q: What challenges are anticipated in sourcing for talent in Asia? Also, how will Coutts set itself apart from competitors in the region?

EC: Of course this is a tough market. Good private bankers are likely to be well looked after by their current employer, so we hope to be able to attract them. There are a number of aspects, including our historical brand, which is very well established, being over 300 years old, and we have exceptional clients because of our long history. We also place a strong emphasis on career development and have just launched a career frameworks series with development opportunities for every employee.

Another thing is our culture – people are friendly and inclusive. Our philanthropy sets us apart from other competitors and this has been particularly important for younger staff – the idea of doing something that is worthwhile and important. Angela Burdett-Coutts, the granddaughter of our founder gave away ₤3m in her day and was one of the original Victorian philanthropists. There is also a strong pull around Coutts’ ambition and people who want to be part of that growth story. So we’re focusing on that, even though private banking has a tight talent pool and there are challenges in the market.

Q: How would you describe your ideal private banking candidate? Is it all about AUM? How vital is it to have Asian experience to join Coutts?

EC: AUM is important, but it still goes back to long-term relationships and trust. The bankers need to understand what their clients are trying to achieve and how they can best help them. Candidates should have a track record of doing that, of being somebody who has the knowledge to provide real client insight that is broader than just pure banking. A service ethos is also really important, our clients can be potentially quite demanding and employees need to be able to deal with that and be responsive.

I think Asian knowledge is critical in this market. Language skills and networks are important, so yes, we would expect candidates to have regional experience.

Q: Coutts recently hired Timothy Chia from UBS investment bank as its new Asia chairman. Rory Tapner, RBS’ chief executive for wealth management, also hails from an IB background. How open is the firm to recruiting investment bankers?

EC: Rory has great experience in both investment banking as well as private banking. We are open to investment bankers; they come with knowledge that is important, but ultimately, there still needs to be the ability to fit in with the culture.

Nancy Lee, head of human resources, Asia: The wealth management talent pool is tight, so we certainly look at people in investment banking. The trick would be to identify bankers who are able to make that transition into private banking, which tends to be more relationship driven than transaction based.

Q: How do you see Coutts faring in terms of compensation as compared with its competitors in the region?

EC: I would say we’re very competitive for the right people – those who are high-quality individuals. Compensation is important, we recognise this, but candidates don’t just focus on that. When we meet with them a larger part of the conversation is spent talking about their opportunities, their clients, and the platform we can offer – that’s seen as more important.

Q: There’s been news of jobs being trimmed at the investment banking division of RBS in Asia, has that hampered hiring in areas like wealth management?

EC: I wouldn’t say there are no challenges, people do ask about it; but growth continues to be the key message at Coutts. We have a big technological platform coming in and we continue to invest in our wealth management business in the region.

Q: Has Coutts seen any redundancies in Asia or are any being planned?

EC: None.

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