The “elite” J.P. Morgan team in Asia that you now wish you were working for

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J.P. Morgan is unlikely to be the first private bank that relationship managers in Asia are sending their CVs to in the wake of first quarter bonuses. Unlike many of its larger and smaller competitors in the region – from UBS to UBP – it is not on a hiring spree. But J.P. Morgan is an increasingly good place to work if you want to make money as an RM in Asia – its assets under management (AUM) and revenue are both on the rise in the region.

Asia Pacific AUM in J.P. Morgan’s Asset and Wealth Management (AWM) division increased by 30% last year compared with 2016, from $123bn to $160bn, according to the firm’s 2017 Annual Report. Regional net revenue in AWM was up by almost 8% over the same period.

While the AUM rise includes assets held by institutional and retail clients (as well as private clients), JPM’s private bankers clearly enjoyed a good year in 2017. They are reaping the rewards of the bank’s 2016 restructuring, which saw it cut about 25 RMs in Asia and double its customer-asset requirement to $10m in order to focus on a smaller pool of richer clients in the ultra-high-net-worth segment.

The latest productivity table from Asian Private Banker – which measures average AUM per RM – ranks J.P. Morgan third behind Goldman Sachs and Citi.

Still, J.P. Morgan is not the easiest private bank to get into as a job seeker. At the end of 2016, following the job cuts that year, its Asian RM headcount stood just 135 – the 13th largest in the region. Top ranked UBS, by contrast, employed 1,016 bankers.

JPM's workforce is not expected to rise by much when 2017 league tables are released in the next few weeks, nor is it tipped to be expanding aggressively this year. “JPM had a quiet 2017 for hiring and it will likely be the same in 2018,” says former Merrill Lynch private banker Rahul Sen, now head of wealth management at search firm The Omerta Group. “It doesn’t do mass hiring. If it can find one or two elite bankers each year in Asia, it will take them, but if not, it might not add any headcount and all its recruitment will just be to replace people who leave.”

“Our motto is to be the best private bank in Asia, not the biggest, so we’re not as affected by the talent shortage in the industry as some are,” Christophe Aba, regional head of investments for Southeast Asia at J.P. Morgan, told us last year.

J.P. Morgan appeals to RMs who want to focus almost exclusively on client-relationship building rather than investment management, says Sen. The latter task is done by its sizable team of investment advisors, and the division of work between the two functions is more rigid than at many other private banks. “It also has an elite image as a private bank, partly because it doesn’t hire much, and partly because of the wider JPM brand,” adds Sen.

Image credit: LewisTsePuiLung, Getty

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