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The takeover deal set to generate more banking jobs in Asia

Big takeovers in the banking sector often lead to the loss of banking jobs. The recent US$4.95bn acquisition of Hong Kong’s Wing Hang Bank (WHB) by Singapore’s OCBC could be an exception – early indications are that layoffs will be minimal and that the combined firm will need to hire more staff, especially in China.

The Wing Hang brand and all of the bank's employees will be retained for at least the next 18 months, according to an OCBC spokesperson in Singapore, confirming previous media reports. OCBC would not comment on how the merger would affect its own headcount.

A Singaporean recruiter with knowledge of OCBC's domestic operations says she has been told that it is not planning layoffs in Singapore – WHB does not have a strong presence in the city state, so job functions are not duplicated between the two banks.

By contrast, both firms operate in Hong Kong but WHB is the stronger player, so minor cut-backs to OCBC’s managerial and operational ranks in the territory may take place in the coming months, says a Hong Kong banking recruiter who asked not to be named.

“Over time there may be redundancies as they improve the banks' operations here, but this process will be complex, deliberate and slow,” adds Rafael Brana, a consultant at search firm Bo Le Associates in Hong Kong. “Generally the acquisition is positive for staff at both banks, who will now be part of a stronger, larger organisation where they can offer more robust and more regional services.”

More banking jobs in Asia

The merged firm is likely to increase its combined headcount over the next year, according to recruiters. Project managers will be among the first to be hired – OCBC is looking to “quickly integrate” the two banks, group chief executive Samuel Tsien told media last week.

“OCBC will look to recruit strategic-IT and project-management people – both consultants and post-merger integration staff – to make real the synergies that this takeover envisages,” says Brana.

It’s in mainland China – Wing Hang has a strong network in southern China’s Pearl River Delta area – that recruitment expectations are highest. Improving its mainland market share was a key reason why OCBC was prepared to pay such a high price for WHB.

Recruiting more corporate-banking relationship managers will be high on OCBC’s recruitment agenda as it looks to help Chinese companies expand into its home region, Southeast Asia. Notably, OCBC last week appointed a corporate banking veteran, Na Wu Beng, as the new CEO of Wing Hang. The job market in this sector in China, however, is competitive – many other foreign banks, including Singapore’s DBS, want to recruit RMs.

Shanghai recruiter Stephen He, a partner at Falcon Talent Consulting, also pinpoints RMB trade finance and private banking as sectors in which the merged bank will want to expand its headcount. OCBC hopes to make further inroads into the Chinese market as the renminbi becomes more widely used for international trade.

The merger will allow OCBC to cross-sell its private banking and wealth management services to WHB customers, both companies and wealthy individuals, OCBC's chief financial officer, Darren Tan, told Singapore’s Straits Times earlier this month.

The OCBC-WHB deal, the largest ever acquisition by a Singaporean bank, is also helping to keep financial institutions groups busy at other firms. Goldman Sachs, KPMG and Nomura are advising Wing Hang, while Bank of America and JPMorgan are working with OCBC. As we reported last month, FIG bankers are in high demand in Asia right now.

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AUTHORSimon Mortlock Content Manager

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