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The hiring war is now on two fronts as private banks target European talent

Frantic poaching of Asia-based private bankers has already been heating up the hiring market this year in Singapore, but now firms are also trying to attract relationship managers from Europe to work in the city state and serve European clients.

UBS, Credit Suisse, Clariden Leu, Julius Baer, RBS Coutts, and Bank of Singapore - which inherited a large European team from ING Asia Private Bank - are leading the charge to recruit (or internally relocate) European private bankers, according to a headhunter, who asked not to be named.

High net-worth European clients are shifting more of their assets into Asia, so private banks are responding by adding additional European bankers in Singapore - the region's private banking hub - to support this flow of new business.

"Such hires are more prevalent than they were several years ago as Singapore becomes an increasingly more attractive financial centre for foreign investment and a highly favoured place to work and live by many European-based private bankers," says Barry Lawrence, principal consultant, GSI Executive Search.

Expats strike back

From a candidate perspective, Singapore's appeal continues to grow. Moving there allows relationship managers to give European clients easier access to Asian investments. And if their clients run businesses, they can use Singapore as a base to expand in the region, says Daniel Jones, managing consultant, private banking, Hong Kong & Singapore, Randstad.

"With growing issues in Europe regarding regulatory and secrecy agreements, Singapore offers greater stability, which provides clients with a higher level of confidence in this market. From a banker's point of view, Asia provides new holistic investment strategies in key emerging markets for their clients, with strong regulatory backing," comments Jones.

Lawrence agrees: "Singapore is regarded as the Switzerland of Asia, and Asia Pacific is the fastest growing market in the world. With many Europe-based high and ultra high net-worth individuals looking to diversify their investments, Singapore, as a first class financial centre and a very safe haven, is well positioned to take advantage of this."

Recruitment of the fittest

But while the potential to pull European money into Asia is high, finding the right private bankers isn't easy. Lawrence says banks apply the same tough hiring criteria for European recruits as they do for roles servicing Asian clients. "The current level of assets under management and the likely achievable AUM in the first three years and beyond - together with the potential return on assets and geographical coverage - remain significant factors in any decision making process," he explains.

And a few grey hairs won't go astray either. "Banks tend to favour the more seasoned, rounded private banker. Singapore has a shortage of these bankers, which creates competitive talent wars between private banks in local markets," says Jones.

Ideally banks will try to move European bankers internally, but if that fails they face an aggressive recruitment market. "Trying to poach from competitors in other regions can be a costly exercise which doesn't offer measurable risk. Singapore has a limited talent pool of seasoned private bankers, and with banks aggressively expanding in the European market, employers have become extremely competitive in their candidate approach and recruitment process," adds Jones.

AUTHORSimon Mortlock Content Manager

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