Buoyed by the growing wealth of Asia’s rich, firms like BNP Paribas, Coutts, J.P. Morgan and UBS are expanding their private banks in Singapore. But they are fussier than ever about the people they take on.
The Asia Pacific region has some 3.37 million people with at least US $1 million in assets to invest, according to World Wealth Report 2012 by RBC Wealth Management and Capgemini. That's more than in the US or Europe. Many of them are served by wealth managers in Singapore, which itself has the densest population of millionaires in the world, according to the Boston Consulting Group.
“These individuals have over $10 trillion in investable assets,” said Jacqueline Chua, market head, South East Asia, Coutts. “In addition, almost half of these assets are not being managed professionally by the wealth industry.”
Coutts wants to double its current headcount in Singapore and Hong Kong in the “medium term”, Chau said. “We are optimistic that business will continue to grow in Asia.”
Peter Flavel, chief executive of J.P. Morgan Private Wealth Management Asia, said his firm had already developed a “strong pipeline” of potential candidates. A spokesperson for UBS in Singapore said it would recruit more private bankers this year, while BNP Paribas will be hiring them as part of its plan to add 1,300 employees across the bank in Asia by 2016. The firms did not provide hiring numbers.
Quality over quantity
While more jobs in private banking are opening up, job growth won't approach that of the recruitment boom in 2010. “Like all parts of banking these days, costs need to be controlled," said Clarence Law, general manager of financial services at Singapore search firm AYP Group.
Banks are also being more selective about who they hire, he said. They want experienced candidates who can quickly start generating revenue, which means new recruits must typically manage at least US$80m to $100m in assets by the end of their first year, Law said. “If there’s an opportunity to hire someone really good, the banks will. But it’s not as though they want hundreds of people each,” Singapore headhunter Nick Hughes, managing director of Asia Wealth Management Search, said.
Chris Jones, the Singapore-based director of banking and financial services at GOW Recruitment, said that private banks are mainly recruiting at director level and above.
Talent is tight
Few senior bankers are willing to jump ship, however. “It’s a tough market to hire in, be it facing competition in a relatively small talent pool, or the fact that good private bankers are likely to be well looked after by their current employers,” Chua from Coutts said.