Singapore’s ambition to become a hub for family offices in Asia seems to be working out a little bit too well – at least when it comes to recruitment. A boom in the number of family offices setting up or expanding in the city state has led to stiff competition for candidates and in some instances a brain drain that has drawn talent away from the private banking industry.
“We are facing a candidate shortage,” says Lim Chai Leng, senior director in banking and financial services at Randstad Singapore. The main recruitment demand for the family-office industry includes roles encompassing wealth management, estate planning, trust structures, estate administration, legal and relationship managers. To fulfil its staffing roster, the typical family office is seeking candidates with 10 or more years of experience, a deep network of contacts in asset management, and the right cultural and linguistic skills to work with regional high-net worth clients, says Lim.
That means recruitment efforts often tend to be focused on attracting individuals already working for private banks or asset management firms. “The positions today are focusing a lot more on Asian business and with that sometimes comes a language requirement – somebody who is effectively bilingual or trilingual and able to communicate and build relationships with Southeast Asian clients,” says Lim.
Among recent industry moves, Mark Chan left UOB private bank to join Pyxis Wealth Advisors as a partner banker, according to a statement earlier this month. Chan has more than 20 years of wealth management experience.
Lim says that candidates jumping ship from private banks are usually drawn by the unique challenges of family offices and less so by financial incentives. It’s often the case that the new role does not come with a big increase in salary. “Being part of a family office is more about being able to have a direct impact, being independent, and the ability to take a holistic view,” says Lim, adding that her firm tends to place around five senior hires in family offices every six months.
She adds that most family offices tend to be fairly lean, with a typical head count of around 10, which means new hires will have the chance to work in a variety of different roles and participate in creative dealmaking.
Singapore’s family office sector has been undergoing strong growth. About 400 family offices are currently operating in the Republic, while assets under management by Singapore based fund managers topped US$2.9 trillion by the start of 2020, according to government data.
Lim says family offices tend to hire “all rounders", or bankers who have the ability to provide guidance in a number of areas. They should also have a strong network that can help to source for information on areas as needed, she says.
Many of the services provided by a family office go beyond asset management and may include daily practical issues, such as visa applications, to more esoteric advisement. “It is not just a solution for wealth, but long-term solutions for business and family planning,” says Lim.
But it is not always easy to hire individuals working in family office units of private banks because they often have a deep bond with the families they are currently advising. “It takes a lot more persuasion and a lot more rounds of discussion between the employer and the candidate,” says Lim in reference to the recruitment process.
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