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Banks look for new ways to retain staff

Banks' expansion and the growth of hedge funds and private equity firms in Asia are making it more difficult - and expensive - to find talent. Little surprise, therefore, that institutions are looking at new ways of keeping a grip on the staff they have.

In an interview with The Business Times in Singapore, Robert Morse, Citigroup's chief executive officer of Asia Pacific corporate and investment banking, said the bank - long regarded as a financial training ground - was keen to ensure it stopped "exporting talent" to the rest of the industry.

He said that rather than watch employees leave to join the growing number of hedge funds and private equity firms populating the Asian markets, he said the bank wanted to make it "easier for people to be entrepreneurial within Citigroup", although he didn't reveal exactly how this entrepreneurialism would be achieved.

Citigroup isn't the only one trying to hold onto talent. Asia's banks are increasingly issuing share options which only vest after several years in an attempt to breed loyalty. Chia Tek-Yew, financial services industry partner at Heidrick & Struggles in Singapore, tells eFinancialCareers.com some institutions are looking at creating a "profit pool" where points are allocated to staff based on their performance or contribution to profit. The points would then be transferred to shares or cash over a 3-5 year period.

He adds that in some cases banks might also consider allowing senior executives to co-invest in deals in which the bank is participating. However this is not overly common because of the potential for conflict of interest.

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