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Asia's booming wealth managers compete for Islamic business

Singapore's drive to position itself as a global centre for Islamic finance is propelling the latest surge in demand for private banking professionals in the city-state, experts say.

"Singapore is seen as a safe haven for Malaysian and Indonesian money and it is also becoming the place of choice for a lot of Middle East funds, over and above London and Geneva," says John Jessen, co-owner of executive search firm Smith & Jessen, which last month opened a new office in Singapore in part to cater to the trend. It plans to open another in Hong Kong next year.

Over the next three years, Morgan Stanley in Singapore says it plans to almost double its headcount in Asia, to 300 from the current 170, on the back of what is says is double digit growth in its private wealth management business. So far the US bank has hired Nick Chan from Goldman Sachs to head its Indonesian business.

In separate development, the China Banking Association says it will issue certificates to three million wealth managers, all of whom will be able to operate as financial advisors, working with banks, professional trust companies and brokerages to help China's emerging rich to invest.

Chinese graduates with an urge to work in wealth management are likely to find employment with foreign banks. According to a recent report by CITIC Ka Wah Bank, foreign banks are likely to achieve a retail market share in the wealth management sector of 30 per cent by the end of 2011.

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