Private banking in China is slowing down, but there is hiring beyond the big four

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Bumpy ride ahead

Bumpy ride ahead?

Private banking recruitment, the erstwhile buoyant sector in Asia, is seeing signs of a slowdown. It’s even affected China, where economic growth has slowed down to about 8 per cent.

Shearer Liu, senior business consultant, private banking, MRIC Asia, says: “Private banking demand certainly hasn’t been as strong as the last two years; 2012 hasn’t been a good year for the sector.”

Most foreign firms are only looking to replace headcount, while there isn’t particularly strong demand from China’s big four banks: Bank of China, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, China Construction Bank, and Agricultural Bank of China.

Not your usual suspects

That said, there have been some new roles created. Liu says city commercial banks like Bank of Hangzhou and Bank of Beijing, are generating demand as they build private banking teams by hiring relationship managers. Interestingly, he knows of a former UBS Swiss banker with Mandarin speaking abilities, who has been hired by one of these firms.

A more challenging environment

Recent reports have suggested that the heady days of fat profits for Chinese banks are over. Second quarter earnings are expected to fall drastically as firms grapple with rising credit costs, weaker loan demand and higher non-performing loans. There are even predictions that profit growth could hit single digits as early as 2013.

There is hope

However, Liu remains optimistic about the sector’s growth next year. “Private banking only started a few years ago in China so the big four are still in the stages of capital and resource injection. Their main goal currently is to better the platform, have a more mature product range and enhance the talent structure and business model.”

If Chinese firms become less profitable, Liu expects certain non-revenue generating roles like administration and support to be affected. Front-office money makers, however, will continue to be sought after.