The expanding Aussie bank now boosting its hiring in Hong Kong and Singapore

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ANZ has been expanding in Asia since 2008, but this year the Australian bank is hiring in Hong Kong and Singapore with renewed vigour and has upped its poaching of staff from larger rivals, especially in corporate-banking sales, according to recruiters in the region.

ANZ head of international and institutional banking Andrew Geczy, himself a former Citi banker, told analysts in Hong Kong last week that the firm is aiming to poach staff from Citibank, Standard Chartered and HSBC. Farhan Faruqui, the former head of global banking in Asia Pacific for Citi, for example, is joining ANZ in August as chief executive of international banking, based in Hong Kong.

Banking recruiters in Asia say these three global banks have actually been on ANZ’s radar for some time, although the level of poaching has increased this year. “ANZ is mainly targeting high-profile senior corporate bankers from firms with a strong regional presence in Asia,” says a recruiter in Singapore who asked not to be named. “Citi, Standard Chartered and HSBC bankers bring a wealth of knowledge of the regional market.”

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The middle ranks of ANZ’s Singapore and Hong Kong workforces also contain a number of ex-Citi, HSBC and Standard Chartered staff, says Gary Lai, managing director, Southeast Asia, at recruiters Charterhouse Partnership in Singapore. And these employees are referring their former colleagues for jobs at the Australian bank.

“In particular, ANZ is rapidly building up its institutional banking business in Asia this year, within both corporate and transactional banking. It’s targeting experienced relationship managers as it looks to gain market share,” says Lai.

As we’ve reported previously, relationship managers are in high demand in corporate banking in Singapore and Hong Kong. “ANZ wants to hire RMs with clients who would come along with them. This provides instant revenue and clients that would otherwise take years to win over if an organic-growth strategy was used rather than targeted headhunting,” says the anonymous recruiter.

ANZ has instigated Asian hiring drives before, most notably between 2008 and 2010 when CEO Mike Smith, an HSBC veteran, kick started the firm’s aggressive expansion outside of Australia as part of its “super regional” strategy. ANZ now operates in 15 Asian countries and wants to double the profit contribution from Asia to as much as 30% by 2017.

Recruiters who worked with the bank in the first few years of its Asian expansion, however, say it suffered from high staff turnover. “It hit the job market too hard back then and hired too many people from the local market, who ended up leaving within a couple of years,” says the Singapore-based recruiter.

ANZ's attractions

Despite two high-profile resignations in the past two months – Hong Kong chief executive Susan Yuen and China boss Charles Li – ANZ’s current recruitment and retention campaigns are winning plaudits. Recruiters say employee turnover has fallen in Singapore and Hong Kong and it’s now much harder to lure ANZ staff into jobs at rival firms.

The Australian bank has sunk money into employer branding campaigns to raise its profile in Asia. “It’s managed to build a strong brand reputation, so these days most candidates are open to having discussions with ANZ,” says Lai from Charterhouse.

ANZ – boosted by record half-year profits – is also seen by most candidates as offering a stable career platform, although some analysts have argued that its Asian expansion is diluting its return on equity.

It helps recruitment, of course, when competitors like Standard Chartered and Barclays are cutting costs in Asia at the same time as ANZ is growing. “The tide has turned on the higher-profile global banks as candidates look for job security and growth opportunities,” says the anonymous recruiter. “We see more people looking to leave these banks in Singapore than we ever have.”

Another recruiter in Singapore says candidates in Hong Kong and Singapore are attracted to ANZ because of its reputation for providing rapid career development and exposure to emerging Asian markets.

“It's very proactive in fast-tracking employees’ careers – particularly for more junior staff – and exposing them to other markets while maintaining Singapore as a base. Candidates with language skills are highly sought after for markets like Thailand, Laos and Vietnam.”

ANZ has not yet answered a request for comment on its Asian hiring.

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