You know it’s the busy season for hiring in Asian banking when even RBS is recruiting managing directors. Jae Jun Lee, Standard Chartered’s head of structured and illiquid credit sales for Hong Kong and Korea, has left the bank after just 18 months to join RBS as a Hong Kong-based MD, according to his public profile.
His hire shows that RBS’s stripped-down Asian operation is still occasionally prepared to bring in expensive senior front-office staff.
RBS, which remains owned by the British government, has been chipping away at its business in Asia since 2009 when it sold some of its retail, wealth and commercial units to ANZ. In 2015, it withdrew from Asian corporate banking, reducing its regional headcount from about 3,000 to 200 as it refocused on its core UK market.
New recruit Lee has joined what remains of RBS in Hong Kong – a sales hub under the NatWest Markets brand, which mainly serves British clients doing business in Asia.
Lee, who has always been based at banks in Hong Kong, began his career at Deutsche Bank in 2002 and worked there for three years in fixed income and derivatives sales. He then joined Lehman Brothers for another three-year stint in fixed income sales, before transfering to Nomura in 2008 when it acquired Lehman’s Asian franchise. He stayed at the Japanese bank for almost eight years, latterly as an MD, and moved to Stan Chart in September 2016.
While RBS is now a niche player in Asia, Lee has at least made his move at a time when parts of its business are performing (comparatively) well globally. In 2017, revenues across RBS’s macro business (the combined rates and foreign exchange trading desks) rose 5% on 2016, outperforming UK rivals Barclays and HSBC.
And while senior compensation globally at RBS is still well below that of most Western banks, RBS does edge out Lee’s old firm, Standard Chartered. The average salary and bonus for NatWest Markets’ 248 material risk takers (MRTs) below senior management level was $570k and $370k respectively last year, according to RBS's financial report. At Stan Chart, MRTs received base pay of $445k and bonuses of $349k on average.
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