Credit Suisse needs to hire six private bankers a month in Asia...for the next 33 months

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Credit Suisse has been recruiting far more relationship managers (RMs) into its private bank recently than main rival UBS, but it still needs to take on an additional 185 RMs to meet its own hiring targets.

In 2015 Credit Suisse added 70 RMs in Asia, more than any other bank, according to new figures from Asian Private Banker. This took its year-end headcount to 590, a rise of 13.5% over 2014. Credit Suisse reportedly now has 615 RMs on its payroll, having added 25 more so far this year.

The hiring spree at Credit Suisse looks set to continue, if the firm can overcome talent shortages in Asia. CEO Tidjane Thiam announced last October that he wants his Asian RM headcount to reach 800 by the end of 2018. This means Credit Suisse must recruit 185 private bankers over the next 33 months – an average of nearly six new hires a month.

Earlier this week Thiam reiterated the bank’s planned pivot towards Asian wealth management. Credit Suisse wants to cross-sell more investment banking services to entrepreneurial clients so it can grow net new assets for its Asian private banking business to CHF25bn ($26bn) by 2018.

“We’re investing in opportunities in China and it will be primarily a wealth management-driven strategy with investment banking, because all those clients we’re going to see in China – they’re interested in both,” he said at the bank’s annual Asian Investment Conference in Hong Kong. “Their investment banking needs are real and we think we make money from that combination.”

Credit Suisse is the most “aggressive” recruiter in Asian private banking, says former Merrill Lynch private banker Rahul Sen, now head of wealth management at search firm The Omerta Group in Singapore.

“But this comes from being a bit stagnant between 2012 and 2014, when it made only around 50 RM hires. CS is about half the size of UBS in terms of AUM and revenue and therefore needs to ramp up its business development activities in Asia – and hire more people – to catch up with UBS.”

Despite hiring 25 private bankers in just the first three months off this year, recruiting another 185 won’t be entirely straightforward. The bank is unlikely to be able to source all these new staff by poaching experienced private bankers from competitors.

“In general, expect Credit Suisse to return to ‘creative’ hiring in Asia,” Josie Ling, a private banking consultant at search firm Eban in Singapore, told us previously. “They’ll consider training people with strong relationships with high-net-worth individuals and their companies, whether from priority banking or even investment or corporate banking. To a much lesser extent, they’ll consider people from other industries with strong HNW networks and an aptitude for sales.”

UBS, meanwhile, saw its RM numbers fall 7.9% to 1,092 between 2014 and 2015, according to Asian Private Banker, although it remains the largest private bank in Asia by a wide margin.

“UBS has grown in Asia for a decade. It’s now looking to optimisation rather than just hiring,” says Clarence Law, a Singapore-based business advisor in private banking.

Sen agrees: “UBS made a numbers of hires from 2012 to 2014. More recently it took stock of these hires, restructured some teams, let go of non-performing bankers, and lost bankers to firms who were more aggressive in their business strategies. Plus new Asia wealth head Edmond Koh is taking time to understand the bank’s requirements before launching into another aggressive hiring mode.”

Image credit: moodboard, Thinkstock

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