Chicago Private Banking: Slow but Promising

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Recruiters and wealth management executives in Chicago say that while hiring is on hold right now, private banking as an industry will see rising demand at all levels in coming years.

"Private banking in general is experiencing a slowdown, and Chicago is no exception," says a senior wealth management recruiter who asked not to be identified. Indeed, her firm's placement of C-level executives and senior individual contributors is off by 50 percent compared to this time last year. "We're having lots of conversations but nobody is pulling the trigger right now," she says. "It's taking longer to get budgets approved."

One private bank office director who declined to be named agreed, explaining: "We definitely need talented people but we're taking a wait-and-see approach with the economy right now."

Nonetheless, most recruiters say there are openings for experienced, capable individuals at all levels of private banking, from senior client service professionals to proven asset gatherers, all the way up to boardroom levels. The boom in liquidity and the impending transfer of wealth among generations is fueling this demand.

'An Active Market'

"It's an active market," says Linda Mack, president of Chicago-based Mack International, a recruiting firm that focuses on private banking and wealth management. In general, Mack notes, these industries are "driven by demographics, not by business cycles." Despite the slowdown in current hiring, "We see an insatiable appetite and demand for people who can access the target client market ... and who have the ability to establish credibility among the high and ultra-high-net-worth marketplace."

As individual clients become more sophisticated about money management, greater depth of knowledge among private bankers is required. Increasingly, the lines are blurring between private bankers, money managers, independent wealth advisors, and investment consultants. Successful bankers will need to be well versed in investments, estate planning, wealth transfer, and niche lending, in addition to traditional banking or trust matters.

"Competition will be fierce," says one senior banker. "In the future, success in this industry is going to be less about just finding the client relationships ... and more about really being able to deliver quality solutions for a wide range of needs."

Mack agrees. "The transfer of wealth is a certainty," she says. "It sets the stage for this market ... It is growing and it will be very competitive."

While most firms declined to comment, mid and senior level positions in and around Chicago and the greater Midwest are being advertised by many major private banks, including Northern Trust, Harris Bank, LaSalle Bank, JPMorgan, UBS and Deutsche Bank. Recruiters say that niche banks are looking for talent as well.

In addition to the existing players in Chicago, Mack sees "are a lot of people looking at Chicago, wondering if they want to open an office. It's an important market."

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