Asia's private banks ramp up hiring of priority bankers

Citi, DBS, HSBC, and UOB are hiring via internal promotions.

A number of private banks in Asia are increasing their recruitment of priority bankers, according to efinancialcareers, in order to cease skill shortages.

Large banks such as Citi, DBS, HSBC, and UOB, are doing the recruitment through internal promotions, whilst Standard Chartered is eyeing to level up the skillset of about 10 priority bankers a year in Singapore, an industry source told efinancialcareers.

Also read: Talent crunch push Singapore banks abroad for in-demand technologists

Those promoted are the top performers in meeting their targets and have customers with investable assets of $1m to $5m depending on the bank.

However, the new private bankers are struggling to keep up because of the differences between managing clients in the two sectors with more 50% not succeeding across all Singapore private banks. “Priority bankers are essentially working in the retail segment. They are micro-managed with daily calls from the boss, daily sales calls and weekly targets,” Liu San Li, a former private banker and now a business partner at wealth management firm Avallis, told efinancialcareers. “But when you go into private banking you’re suddenly in a much more mature way of functioning – your manager might check in on you once a month but you’re largely left to your own devices. You either build your business or you fail.”

Furthermore, the promoted relationship managers are having a hard time adjusting to the more complex products they are now dealing with, according to wealth management headhunter Rahul Sen. They are also facing tougher revenue targets because they can only bring their wealthiest clients, said Pathik Gupta, associate partner at consultancy McLagan in Singapore.

Despite all this, however, recruiting priority bankers can still improve banks' profits. “When UBS took on about 100 of them from Citi, HSBC and the like in China about four years ago only about 35 were successful. But the salaries of the 65 others were low anyway and the bank took on their clients when they left – so it worked out," a Singapore headhunter shared with efinancialcareers. 

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