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Swiss firm boosts private banking hiring in Singapore, Hong Kong

Another private bank is planning to boost its front-office workforce in Asia. Union Bancaire Privée (UBP) is looking to increase its relationship manager (RM) headcount in the region by 10% to 15% in the next 12 months, says Asia chief executive Michael Blake.

This translates to around 10 to 15 RMs across its Singapore and Hong Kong offices, which have teams of about the same size. RMs comprise slightly under a third of employees in wealth management at the bank, which has about 300 staff across the region.

Two-thirds of UBP’s regional business growth has come from new recruits over the last five years, says Blake. The Geneva-headquartered firm has made senior hires in Singapore and Hong Kong in recent months, including Frankie Tong from Deutsche Bank as head of investment consultants, North Asia. Senior Hong Kong-based RMs Gigi Liu and Connie Chan have joined from Bank of Montreal and BNP Paribas, respectively. In Singapore, the new arrivals include former Bank of Singapore duo Jasmine Er (now South Asia market head for key clients) and Chua Yng Chng, a relationship manager.

Despite these hires and UBP’s planned expansion, the firm isn’t among the most aggressive or largest recruiters in Asian private banking. “It’s not a numbers game. We focus on hiring fewer and more senior people,” says Blake, adding that three-quarters of its bankers have over 10 years’ experience. “Experience is absolutely critical. We’re looking for RMs who understand their clients’ needs and use our investment platforms and equities to build customised solutions for clients. It takes time to find a good fit,” he adds.

Blake says demand for RMs – as well as other roles, such as private market and discretionary portfolio management specialists – remains robust in Asia despite Covid-19 because the region continues to offer firms growth opportunities. In particular, Singapore and Hong Kong remain attractive locations for regional wealth management, says Blake.

“The pace of wealth growth across the region remains pretty high. We continue to see demand for strong candidates in the market, as firms have confidence to continue hiring,” says Blake. The wealth pool in Asia is growing by about 10% per year, and a large portion of these assets are not professionally managed. This has created continued demand for wealth management services, he adds.

Despite this, Blake says UBP has not been impacted by recent shortages of wealth managers regionally. Continued demand for RMs should not be seen as a shortage of talent, but as a sign of industry growth, he says, adding that there has always been fierce competition for the experienced RMs that UBP seeks.

Boutique private banks like UBP don’t appeal to all relationship managers, especially those who want to offer clients in-house investment banking products. HSBC and Deutsche Bank are among the large banks that have announced hiring drives in Asian private banking this year.

Still, Blake says senior RMs are drawn to UBP when they want “less bureaucracy and more flexibility in terms of their approach to relationship management”.

Photo by Alex wong on Unsplash

AUTHORRachel Chia Insider Comment

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