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Goldman Sachs or Standard Chartered? How private banking jobs differ at big banks in Asia

Goldman Sachs may not be doing much hiring in Asian private banking, but it’s one of the most desirable firms to work for in the region. That’s because Goldman’s relationship managers look after more assets per head than any of their rivals, making them the most ‘productive’ RMs in Asia (and potentially giving them high bonuses), according to new figures from Asian Private Banker (APB).

The US bank is only the 17th largest employer of RMs in Asia – its front-office headcount inched up by two to reach 90 last year – but each Goldman RM manages a whopping US$882.2m on average, as shown in the table below. In contrast, UBS took on 101 bankers in 2018 but its AUM per head (i.e. total AUM divided by RM headcount) stood at US$313.7bn at the end of that year. Goldman is tough to get into, but lucrative once you’re in.

Goldman’s exclusivity is mainly down to its focus on ultra-high-net-worth (UHNW) millionaires and billionaires. If you want to be a Goldman RM in Asia, your clients will need a minimum of US$100m in investable assets. Most large European private banks have high-net-worth as well as UHNW clients (the minimum threshold at UBS and Credit Suisse is a mere US$2m) and even other US banks can’t match Goldman’s fondness for the mega wealthy.

Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan – which are both in the top-seven in APB’s productivity table – insist that their Asian bankers’ clients have assets of at US$35m and US$10m, respectively. That’s more than most other banks, but a long way behind GS.

If you want to manage a lot of money, but want to avoid the bureaucracy of working for a big bank, you could apply to second-placed Pictet. Getting an Asian job at the Geneva-based boutique may not be as challenging as you think – Pictet is hiring in Singapore and Hong Kong. While it only added two RMs last year (taking its banker headcount to 52), senior partner, Nicolas Pictet, told the Financial Times in January that the bank plans to take on 300 new staff globally in 2019 and that Asia would be a focus of this expansion.

Deutsche Bank was one of the most aggressive recruiters of Asian RMs in 2018 (it hired 30), but it only finishes in 17th place in the productivity table below (its RMs manage US$200.4m on average). Firms that have taken on more bankers recently can suffer falls in productivity as the new recruits take time to grow their books.

Meanwhile, Standard Chartered’s lowly position reflects its recent challenges in private banking. Assets under management were $5bn (8%) lower at the end of December 2018 than they were 12 months previously, mainly due to market volatility, according to its financial results. Some RMs see Stan Chart as a retail bank rather than a “proper private bank”, former Merrill Lynch private banker Rahul Sen, now a global leader in private wealth management at search firm Boyden, told us earlier this month. The new APB figures will do nothing to dispel this perception.

Have a confidential story, tip, or comment you’d like to share? Email: or Telegram: @simonmortlock

Image credit: jacoblund, Getty

AUTHORSimon Mortlock Content Manager

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