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Why HSBC must now hire from Goldman, JPM and UBS in Hong Kong and Singapore

HSBC must poach from the powerhouses of Asian wealth management – UBS, Credit Suisse and Julius Baer – if it’s to successfully build out its new ultra-high-net-worth (UHNW) team in Asia, say headhunters. And bankers from Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan will also need to come on board. This will not be easy in a region which already suffers from chronic shortages of relationship managers.

HSBC revealed this week that it has established – and will expand – an UHNW team in Asia, serving clients who have assets of about $30m or more. The move is part of a wider push, announced in September, to add about 650 new staff (including RMs) in Asian private banking, mainly in Hong Kong and Singapore.

While large-scale hiring is difficult enough in high-net-worth banking (which caters to single-digit millionaires), it’s even trickier in the UHNW segment, in which clients tend to be business owners and/or billionaires. Mega rich people in Asia are notoriously reluctant to endure the more rigorous onboarding procedures that banks now demand for new clients, making their RMs reluctant to attempt job moves, says a private banking headhunter. While some of HSBC’s existing RMs already serve UHNW clients, the fact that the firm hasn’t operated a stand-alone unit until now may make some bankers uneasy about leaving an established UHNW team to join a new one, he adds.

Moreover, only a few private banks in Asia have strong UHNW teams, which further limits the talent pool that HSBC can hire from. US banks like Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan only service UHNW clients in Asia, so they are likely to be prime targets for HSBC, says Liu San Li, a former private banker, now a business partner at wealth management firm Avallis in Singapore. And if you work in UHNW for UBS, Credit Suisse or Julius Baer, you should also expect to hear from HSBC in the near future.

HSBC has already recruited the Hong Kong-based top brass for its UHNW unit. Erik Bergqvist, previously with Julius Baer, is head of UHNW segment management, while Gabriel Tam has joined from Bank of America as head of UHNW solutions. But neither man is a revenue generating RM. Tam was head of APAC equity derivatives sales at BoA’s investment bank. Bergqvist has held senior strategy roles at Julius Baer and UBS, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Luring rank-and-file RMs away from the likes of Julius Baer and UBS will likely require HSBC to substantially increase salaries and offer upgrades of corporate rank, says San Li from Avallis.

If you want to work in HSBC’s new UHNW team, you will need to be good at cross selling investment banking services to your business owning clients. Tam’s job involves “serving clients with HSBC's products within its private bank and investment bank”, according to Bloomberg. Similarly, HSBC's Q3 report stresses that 60% of net new money inflows in private banking in that quarter were from collaboration with HSBC’s other global businesses. UBS and Credit Suisse are pursuing similar strategies in Asia.

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Image credit: mtcurado, Getty

AUTHORSimon Mortlock Content Manager

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