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Barclays' private banking push will thin ranks

A hiring spree at Barclays Wealth Management means the already thinly spread supply of private bankers could be spread even thinner in future.

Christian Sulger Buel, managing director of the private banking search firm Sulger Buel & Company, says the dearth of good private bankers remains a problem. "There's a shortage of private bankers globally," he says. "And there's an even bigger shortage of private bankers with good client books."

The lack of readily available private banking talent doesn't appear to be discouraging Barclays Wealth Management from buying in staff. The Financial Times today reports that Thomas Kalaris, the new chief executive of Barclays' private banking arm, is interviewing between 15 and 20 people a week in an effort to recruit 'A players' and increase the division's scope and profitability, particularly in Asia.

But in the current hiring climate, Sulger Buel suggests the bank may find it necessary to pay over the odds to attract the right calibre of staff. "It's difficult to hire in big numbers unless you're paying a premium," he says. "In my opinion, Barclays might be better off leveraging its existing retail and corporate banking networks, much like HSBC and RBS."

While Barclays brings new private bankers in through the front door, it may also let existing private bankers out the back. Despite planning to add staff, Kalaris reportedly wants keep the wealth management workforce constant, at 7,500.

Technologists could also find their skills in demand. The Financial Times reports that Kalaris plans to spend 100m to 125m over the next three years, both on hiring people and on upgrading technology.

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