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“China bankers have come of age”: PBs pivot towards mainland Chinese talent

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Private banks are pivoting towards hiring mainland Chinese talent for their rich experience and deep connections with the Chinese corporate world.

Top private bankers made welcoming overtures to mainland Chinese bankers, remarking “My phone is always open” and “We welcome them with open arms”, during the panel discussion What’s in a CV? at the 13th annual APB Summit 2023 in Hong Kong on 28 November

“In terms of hiring, we are pivoting to China as one of our core strategies in the next few years”

Private banks have been onboarding more mainland talent over the past year. While Chinese bankers have been anchoring the firms’ businesses in the region, this has in turn ramped up the search and competition for mainland talent.

Peter Tung, Standard Chartered

Peter Tung, regional head of private banking for Greater China & North Asia at Standard Chartered Bank, said that mainland Chinese talent has been a strong source for recruitment since he joined the bank last year.

“We found that the China bankers have come of age. They become more mature and business-minded and they know the investment products,” Tung shared. “With fluent English skills, these Chinese bankers also have the advantage of a strong network with onshore clients.”

“In terms of hiring, we are pivoting to China as one of our core strategies in the next few years,” he said, adding that the British lender is aggressively building scale in both Singapore and Hong Kong.

The China rush

Tapping into China’s sprawling wealth space is a priority for banks, many of which have been expanding their footprint in Asia’s largest economy with hiring initiatives.

David Shick Julius Baer

David Shick, Bank Julius Baer

Bank Julius Baer, for example, has a net hire growth of 6% to 10% annually, according to the bank’s head for Greater China and Hong Kong branch manager, David Shick.

Shick said while the Swiss lender used to pretty much pick talent within Hong Kong or Singapore, the maturity of mainland private bankers is an area the bank is looking into.

“I’m looking towards bringing in more mainland talents next year. And that would be a key priority for me right now,” he said, adding that the firm will also put effort into upgrading talent internally and nurturing young bankers.

Carol Wu, managing director and head of private banking for North Asia at DBS Bank (Hong Kong), agreed on the importance of having a hiring growth plan in place and shared that beyond mainland Chinese and Hong Kong talent, the bank also has a focus on the Taiwan market.

Carol Wu, DBS

According to Wu, DBS focus on cultural fit to make sure those who join the bank can really grow and prosper. Compared to Singapore, where the bank focuses a bit more on hiring locally to meet government requirements, Wu said the bank hires more talent from mainland China in Hong Kong.

The good news for banks engaged in the China hiring rush is that as the industry keeps evolving, more talent is now entering the job market.

“With the Credit Suisse incidents, the private banking industry is basically reshuffled,” said David Louie, CEO of Hong Kong and head of North Asia for EFG Bank. “Clients’ needs are different and relationship managers’ needs are different, and we are getting a very strong pipeline of core relationship managers.”

Since Louie – the former market group head for China at Credit Suisse where he spent 11 years – joined EFG, the Swiss boutique bank has seen a spate of hirings including several veterans from Credit Suisse and Bank of Singapore, as reported by APB.

David Louie, EFG

“We are getting a lot of inquiries from the senior Chinese bankers from onshore who are very interested in moving to Hong Kong,” said Louie, adding that the family office initiative pushed by the Hong Kong government also makes the city attractive.

He also shared that EFG is in a growth mode in China and without any limit on budget: “I can basically hire whatever count I want,” he said.

A career change

Private Banks’ thirst for Chinese talent has also been met with an increasing number of corporate bankers in mainland China planning to make a career change.

There has been a significant influx of corporate bankers wanting to move to Singapore or Hong Kong recently. The trend could be attributed to consolidation within China, although many may also have personal family reasons attracting them to Asia’s key wealth hubs.

APB thought leaders plenary panel discussion: What’s in a CV? Left to Right: David Louis, EFG; David Shick, Bank Julius Baer; Peter Tung, Standard Chartered Bank; Carol Wu, DBS Bank (Hong Kong); Daniel Shane, APB

For corporate bankers used to covering clients onshore, it is natural to move offshore to cover the same client when they are looking at possible opportunities within private banking in the same organisation, according to Tung.

Meanwhile, Shick added that the SME segment of corporate banking has very good wealth management clients.

“Corporate bankers have direct access to the shareholders that are not exactly public. Even though they’re public, they do have access to major shareholders,” he said. “This is basically the segment that I recruited from.”

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