Fight for talent unhealthy for industry, warns expert

PUBLISHED : Friday, 12 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 12 October, 2007, 12:00am

The Asian-Pacific chief of a major global private bank warns that the current talent shortage may have far-reaching repercussions for the industry.

Kaven Leung, chief executive of Citi Global Wealth Management, Asia-Pacific, said the shortage of experienced wealth managers had led to aggressive hiring practices and, in turn, a high industry turnover.

The result was unhealthy and created unsustainable cost pressures for the hiring firm because in the long-run, spiralling wages could undermine a country's attractiveness and competitiveness as a wealth management hub.

'The negative impact also extends to a fall in service standards, inflated and unrealistic expectations of industry practitioners as well as putting client confidentiality at stake due to circulation of client data,' he said.

'Talent is perhaps the single largest factor constraining the growth of our industry in the region. Asia is the battleground for talent in the wealth management industry as currently the demand for wealth management talent exceeds supply,' he said.

Citi Private Bank employs more than 1,000 staff across the Asia-Pacific region. This includes more than 600 based in Hong Kong comprising of various personnel with regional and global responsibilities. They include marketing, investments, operations, technology, human resources, legal and compliance, in addition to those solely serving the Hong Kong private banking market.

'Hong Kong is likely to be a major contributor to Citi's private banking business in the Asia-Pacific region and globally going forward, especially as entrepreneurs seek business opportunities in mainland China and given Hong Kong's position as a gateway to China as well as a nexus for the Greater China region, which represents a wealth management market size of nearly US$2 trillion.'

With wealth management being a highly specialised field, it also means that private banks are looking for a special bracket of employees.

'Behavioural finance is incorporated into several of our training programmes as we strive to be seen as the trusted adviser to our clients. Portfolio theory is important but not the entire focus. Nothing in the programme is off-the-shelf. Everything is tailored to meet a specific need,' said Mr Leung.

In places such as New York, where Lehman Brothers, for example, has individual staff recruiting college students for the company's investment banking analyst programme, there are various individuals looking to hire people for specific positions, fields based on qualifications and aptitude. When it comes to the hires in Hong Kong, there are many matters put into consideration.