Morgan Stanley and Deutsche take on 50 new bankers each in shock Asian hiring sprees

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In 2016, Credit Suisse, Standard Chartered and Julius Baer dominated hiring in Asian private banking. Not so in 2017, according to a newly released league table for that year from Asian Private Banker which shows the number of Asia-based relationship managers employed by each bank.

We looked through the table and found the following highlights.

Morgan Stanley shocks the market

The Asian wealth units of big US banks are not known for their aggressive hiring. Goldman Sachs, which focuses exclusively on ultra-high-net-worth clients, had just 88 RMs within its ranks in Asia in 2017, down three from the previous year. Morgan Stanley has suddenly become an exception to this rule after its RM headcount shot up by 51 year on year to reach 298 in 2017. Nick Chan, Morgan Stanley Private Wealth Management’s Asia co-head of sales, said early last year that he wanted to hire more RMs in Singapore, and that Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand were his main priorities as coverage markets. Morgan Stanley has also been recruiting this year, taking on China banker Jeffery Sung from DBS.

Deutsche Bank keeps its hiring promises

At the start of 2017, Deutsche seemed more likely to lose, not hire, RMs. It had just suffered the significant departure of Ravi Raju, its Asian wealth chief, to UBS – and others were expected to follow him. But Deutsche didn’t just stave off an exodus last year, it grew. In June, Deutsche Bank Wealth Management began an Asian hiring spree when Lok Yim, its Asia Pacific head, announced plans to add 50 client-facing roles – including RMs – in Asia during the second half of 2017. After staying static at 200 since 2012, its Deutsche's RM workforce rose 25% to 250 in 2017, the joint highest (with UOB) percentage increase of any bank not involved in a takeover.

Julius Baer: hiring has slowed, not stopped

After adding 110 RMs in Asia in 2016 – more than any competitor, excluding those involved in acquisitions – 2017 was always going to be a quieter time for Julius Baer. But it did still manage to boost its headcount by 20 to reach 400, and become one of only five firms (the others are UBS, Credit Suisse, HSBC and Bank of Singapore, in that order) to employ 400 or more RMs in the region. Julius Baer continues to recruit in 2018. In the past few weeks it has taken on DBS banker Laurent Chevalley as a managing director and senior advisor, and recruited Winston Teo from Bank of Singapore as Southeast Asia team head.

Quality over quantity at Credit Suisse

Hiring is not the only way to expand in Asian private banking. Credit Suisse’s Asian RM workforce fell from 640 to 590 between 2016 and 2017, but its assets under management were up by 23.4% to $202.1bn over the same period, according to Asian Private Banker. Revenues in the firm’s APAC private bank also rose by 17% to reach CHF1,607m in 2017, according to its full-year financial results. Credit Suisse has been letting go of poorer performers, while some of the new RMs it recruited during its 2016 hiring spree have now bedded in and are managing more money.

LGT tries to shed its boutique status

The boost given to LGT in Asia by its April 2017 acquisition of ABN AMRO’s Asian private banking business has been laid bare: it now employs 199 RMs, up from just 106 in 2016. This mean it’s now the 12th largest private bank by headcount in Asia, ahead of firms such as J.P. Morgan. Its new clout in the region could give it a recruitment edge over the four other European boutiques – Safra Sarasin, VP Bank, UBP, and EFG – who all want to expand in Asia but face problems attracting RMs and clients. EFG, the second largest of these banks, only employs 109 RMs.

Image credit: MATJAZ SLANIC, Getty

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