Morning Coffee: Why you should forge a career in private banking, not IBD

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If you want to forge a front-office banking career in Hong Kong and you want your skills to be sought after over the long term, private banking looks like a better bet than investment banking. The [efc_twitter text="Hong Kong government believes there aren’t enough private bankers in the city"] and it’s trying to encourage more people to join the sector.

In delivering his budget yesterday, Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah outlined measures to boost the competitiveness of the financial service industry. He said that wealth management – alongside insurance and asset management – was one of the sectors suffering from the most acute skill shortages.

The Hong Kong government is allocating HK$100m (US$12.9m) to a three-year pilot programme for wealth management and insurance. Details of the scheme remain vague – but it will involve the government working with employers to provide internships and promote professional development, according to Finance Asia.

Increasing the talent pool in front-office private banking will be tough, however much government money is thrown at the problem. Graduates and interns may possess a passion for banking and strong technical skills, but above all they need the ability to build long-term relationship with wealthy clients. “You can train all the people you like to be private bankers, but do they have the right personality, can they keep hold of key clients and can they meet very demanding revenue targets?” says a senior wealth management headhunter who asked to remain anonymous.

“There will always be too few relationship managers in private banking in Asia – private wealth here is growing faster than in other regions, so finding enough decent RMs to keep pace with this growth is challenging,” adds Clarence Law, a Singapore-based business advisor in private banking.

A January report from Hong Kong’s Financial Services Development Council also found that front-office talent shortages were most severe in private banking and insurance. Investment banking and securities broking suffer from relatively low shortages as many graduates are attracted to work in these sectors, according to the report.


It started with an ABBA song: how DBS private bank retained 200 SocGen staff post-merger. (Financial Times)

OCBC explains how it spots its high-potential future leaders from its pool of junior bankers. (Human Resources online)

Key difference between the Hong Kong and Singapore budgets. (Financial Times)

The Singapore government gives S$500 to two million people to spend on training courses. (Channel News Asia)

The Hunger Games video that Morgan Stanley doesn’t want you to see. (Business Insider)

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