Intense battle for talent as banks expand in Asia

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 September, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 19 September, 2010, 12:00am

Private banks in the region are once again back in hiring mode as they explore new business from high-net-worth individuals.

UBS, Standard Chartered, Macquarie, Barclays and Morgan Stanley are among banks that have announced plans to hire more private bankers to help Asia's swelling ranks of millionaires manage their money.

Recently the Boston Consulting Group said in a research report that wealth in the Asia-Pacific region, outside Japan, is expected to grow at twice the global rate.

Barclays Wealth, the global wealth management division of Barclays, announced that it has hired Thelma Kwan as head of wealth advisory, Asia-Pacific.

Barclays says that Kwan will be based in Hong Kong and head the team of trust consultants in Hong Kong and Singapore, and oversee the provision and marketing of trust structuring and wealth advisory services to Barclays Wealth high-net-worth and ultra-high-net-worth clients across Asia.

She is to report to London-based Rob Withecombe, Barclays Wealth head of wealth advisory, and to Didier von Daeniken, CEO of Barclays Wealth Asia-Pacific.

Another private bank hiring for its Asian unit is Australia-based Macquarie Private Wealth Asia, which announced that it has appointed three senior private wealth executives. Macquarie says the new appointments will further help in growing its business and providing additional expertise to support its clients throughout the Asian region.

Its head, Joseph Poon, says Macquarie Private Wealth continues to support the private wealth management needs of ultra-high-net-worth individuals by recruiting experts who understand their clients' unique needs.

'This includes ensuring we have senior executives with extensive Asian wealth management experience,' Poon says.

The three new appointments are James Mak, who has been appointed as its regional head of co-investments and strategic advisory; Robin Harris, who will lead the strategic development initiatives; and Leonard Tan who joined Macquarie Private Wealth Asia's Singapore office as a key client adviser, focusing on the Southeast Asian markets.

According to the Boston Consulting Group report, the Asia-Pacific region's share of global wealth will rise to almost 20 per cent in 2014 from 15 per cent last year, with China and India driving growth.

The private banking industry may need an additional 900 wealth managers in the next five years to cope with growth in the region, according to a research note from Swiss-based investment bank UBS. Switzerland's biggest bank says it is reviving an effort to recruit and train people who don't have industry experience for its Asian unit, as competition for private bankers heats up.

According to various news reports, United States-based investment bank Morgan Stanley plans to take on about 100 private bankers in Asia by the end of this year.

The reports say that the drive will be led by its former Indonesian private bank boss, who has been promoted to the newly created post of head of talent management for private wealth management in Asia.

Morgan Stanley is pitting itself against a host of other banks - including Julius Baer, BSI and Standard Chartered - that are boosting the ranks of their relationship managers in Asia, hoping to cash in on the region's growing number of high-net-worth individuals.

The speed of Asia's economic recovery means they all have tight hiring timetables and are essentially competing for the same talent at the same time.

'If you calculate all the publicised hiring targets of all the private banks, the numbers just don't add up. There [isn't] enough talent around,' Poon says.