The perfect profile for a 30% pay raise in private banking

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If you’re a mainland Chinese private banker and have clocked up a few years working in Hong Kong, job offers and large pay hikes should be heading your way, particularly from UBS and BNP Paribas. Hong Kong private banks will still pay top dollar for relationship managers with rich Chinese clients.

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Headhunters say this year recruitment in private banking in Hong Kong is more buoyant than in Singapore, the country most often touted as Asia’s private banking hub.

Hong Kong-based millionaires now have more money than their counterparts in Singapore, a reversal of last year's ranking, according to a new global wealth survey by RBC Wealth Management and Capgemini.

But it’s the rapid, recent growth of private wealth across the border in China that is fuelling hiring in Hong Kong. “HK caters to the entire Greater China region, so there is significantly higher demand for private bankers there compared with Singapore,” said Rahul Sen, a director at search firm Sheffield Haworth, who recruits in both markets.

Unfortunately for private banks in Hong Kong, there aren’t many senior, client-heavy Chinese relationship managers available, said Jack Bennett, managing director at Hong Kong headhunters Lionrock International.

This skill shortage is all the more severe because firms want Chinese private bankers with experience in Hong Kong, a more developed private banking centre than the mainland. “About three years ago they were moving more people from the mainland into HK; now this is seen as too risky and too expensive,” said Shearer Liu, a senior business consultant at recruiters MRIC in Beijing.

Chinese private bankers who shifted to Hong Kong in 2009/2010 are now in an enviable position, with employers usually willing to offer them 30% salary increases, Lui said. This bucks the current trend whereby private banks in Asia are reducing compensation costs.

The most sought-after private bankers in Hong Kong are middle-aged and manage more than US$300m in assets, Sen added.

UBS and BNP Paribas are hiring “the most aggressively” among private banks in Hong Kong, said a headhunter who asked not to be named. Neither bank responded to requests for comment.

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