Banks Swoop in on Soaring Asian Wealth

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Investment banks like JPMorgan, UBS and Barclay's are marching into the Asia-Pacific region and bulking up in an effort to take advantage of soaring wealth there.

This week, JPMorgan said it would increase its Asia headcount by 40% this year and next. UBS, Barclay's an others have countered with high profile hires. Now that the number of Asian millionaires matches the number of European ones, these banks are beginning a game of one-upmanship in the race to capitalize on all that new wealth.

That jump in wealth was confirmed by the 2010 Asia-Pacific Wealth Report by Merrill Lynch Global Wealth Management and Capgemini. According to the report, the number of wealthy individuals increased in the region, as did their overall their wealth by some 31 percent last year.

Apparently, Asia-Pac is doing fine, thank you, post-financial crisis, as its number of ultra-high-net worth individuals rose a whopping 37 percent.

As that growth continues, banks like JPMorgan are set to capitalize, by offering services designed to help individuals select investment products that fit their risk profiles. Firms are stepping up their hiring of advisers to provide value-added advice and a range of options that can be aligned with goals over time.

But how that shakes out in terms of hiring remains to be seen. While JPMorgan will

triple the size of its private bank in the region over the next five years, it's unclear if we're on the verge of a hiring spree or a game of musical chairs.

Already, we've seen poaching of top talent. RBS Coutts lost more than a third of its staff in Singapore to BSI last year. UBS hired former the head of Credit Suisse's investment banking in Asia-Pacific to lead its wealth management business there. And, not to be outdone, Bank of America Merrill Lynch hired Michael Benz from UBS as its new Asia Pacific head of wealth management.

Still, with firms such as Morgan Stanley also poised to hire private bankers and sizzling growth in the number of high earners in Japan, Singapore and India, wealth management will be a safe bet for burgeoning job seekers with a knack for listening, building relationships and providing sound advice to people.

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