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Creaky service from private banks

Talent shortages mean private banking is showing signs of strain in both Singapore and Hong Kong, says Christopher Sykes, managing director of Greater China at executive search firm Edward W. Kelley & Partners.

"There is increasingly a mismatch between important clients and the bankers who are serving them - often bankers in their 30s who haven't yet got the necessary experience," says Sykes.

Private banking is exploding as Asian entrepreneurs search for ways of putting their newly-acquired wealth to work - but the supply of skilled talent hasn't kept pace.

New hires to the sector are often individuals with a mid-level background in the premium or gold segments of normal commercial banking.

"But while these guys know about service, they often don't have sufficient technical skills," notes one private banker based in Singapore. "They are just being given fancy titles and a bit more money. But they are not real private bankers and they can't provide the same standard of service."

While certain well-known American universal banks, with large commercial banking or brokerage operations, are good at churning low-level business, this is completely inadequate for the ultra-high net worth individuals who characterize 'real' private banking, he says.

"Private bankers have to move on from walking their client's poodle and start building a real business," he says.

That means bankers with harder-edged technical skills and a thorough understanding of the market are in great demand.

These technical specialists are more likely to come from an investment banking background, say recruiters. As a result, there are growing opportunities for investment bankers with a penchant for private banking to switch roles.

Last week it emerged that Barclays Wealth, the private wealth arm of UK bank Barclays, had hired Didier Von Daeniken, the former co-head of private banking at Credit Suisse. Von Daeniken is expected to lead the bank's expansion (which is likely to involve plenty of hiring) in the region.

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