Bankers for billionaires fall out of favour at Credit Suisse in Asia

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Bankers for billionaires fall out of favour at Credit Suisse in Asia

If you want to get a private banking job at Credit Suisse in Asia, you increasingly stand a better chance if your clients aren’t that wealthy.

Francesco De Ferrari, the embattled Swiss bank’s global wealth head, said in June that CS will “significantly expand” its high-net-worth (HNW) model in existing markets while extending it to Hong Kong and Singapore. The investment threshold for HNW clients is typically $1m.

Credit Suisse is drawing up new restructuring plans, due in November, to further focus on wealth management at the expense of investment banking. Within private banking, it is also reportedly now doubling down on the strategy to prioritise HNW clients over those in the ultra-high-net-worth (UHNW) bracket, usually people with at least $30m in investable assets, including billionaires.

On the face of it, this makes sense as a business model. Lesser millionaires make up a larger revenue pool and client base, and are usually more straightforward to manage – including via technology platforms – as their investment needs are less complex. UBS is following a similar strategy.

If Credit Suisse expands its HNW teams in Asia, this may open up opportunities for mass-affluent relationship managers (privilege/priority bankers from the likes of Citi, Standard Chartered and DBS) to make the leap to the lower ranks of private banking.

The risk for Credit Suisse in Singapore and Hong Kong, however, is that it may lose strong UHNW bankers to competitors who are building up their workforces in that client segment. Several private banks are recruiting family-office relationship managers precisely because these clients fall into the UHNW category.

Last year HSBC launched a new institutional family office in Singapore and Hong Kong, on the back of “greater interest from Asian clients who are setting up and expanding family offices”. Julius Baer is also hiring and has described family offices as a “separate and unique client segment”. Citi is building its Singapore-based family office team after recruiting Faye Ong from UBP in July 2021 as head of family office advisory, private capital group.

Nomura, too, isn’t afraid of the complexity that comes with UHNW clients. “For UHNW, nowadays having just a traditional private banking platform wouldn’t suffice as the clients are getting more interested in solutions beyond traditional private banking,” Liu San Li, a former private banker and investment advisor, now a recruiter and career advisor, told us earlier this year.

Photo by Emre Alırız on Unsplash

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