Five things to consider before you join the likes of UBS and Deutsche in Asia

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5 things to consider before you join UBS and Deutsche in Asia

It’s been a busy few weeks for big hiring announcements in Asian private banking.

Just last week Deutsche Bank announced that it will hire 50 new bankers in Asia. In May, UBS revealed plans to recruit 100 private bankers in Hong Kong, while Bank of Singapore said it had already taken on 20 RMs in the same city this year and will continue to add staff. Other banks, notably Julius Baer and Credit Suisse, are also looking for RMs in the region.

If you’re an RM in Singapore or Hong Kong, now is a tempting time to explore new job options. But should you actually move to one of these expansionist banks? As a former private banker now working as a headhunter in Singapore, I know there are many factors to weigh up.

I’ve distilled these down into five of the most important ones. If the risks outweigh the rewards in any of the fields below, you might want to reassess your move.

1. Can you move enough clients?

It’s obviously important to establish how many of your clients will move with you. But the crucial question is – what’s the minimum threshold to make the move viable? As a rule of thumb, based on recruiting many RMs in Asia over the last few years, I’d say at least 70%.

2. How many clients will be duplicates?

Do some of the clients you could move already have a relationship at the designated bank? If yes, what percentage of them? If more than 30% or 40% of them have assets there, you need to seriously consider whether the move makes sense. In general, new RMs aren’t allowed to manage duplicate clients, a few exceptions notwithstanding. So always assume you’re not allowed to look after any duplicate clients, even if you’re promised otherwise in the interviews. More often than not, things won’t turn out as expected when you come on board.

3. Will your clients pass compliance?

The ease (or otherwise) of opening private banking accounts in Asia has recently become much more important to RMs looking to move. KYC can be a grey area. Technically speaking, if a client passes minimum MAS requirements in Singapore, they should be approved. However, it doesn’t work this way in reality. Each bank has its own set of requirements, which reflect its subjective take on compliance. Opening of new accounts can take months if the documentation isn't ‘sufficient’ (this is defined differently by each bank). So to be safe, always consider the worst-case compliance scenario before you accept a new job offer.

4. Are the bank’s products really any better?

Before moving, you need to compare your current bank’s products and facilities with those of the potential employer. All private banks offer the standard product suite; it's the extra products that you need to evaluate. To name a few: investment banking platforms, corporate banking products, mortgages, and equity or other financing options.

5. Will you meet future performance standards?

All the banks mentioned above have stringent performance requirements (and deservedly so given their brands). They’re demanding when it comes to getting their relationship managers to meet KPIs (both AUM and revenue). So even if you can bring in enough clients initially, you also need a solid business plan showing how you will meet your targets one to two years down the line.

Liu San Li, a former Coutts private banker, is now client director in private wealth management at search firm EMA Partners in Singapore.

Image credit: Gawrav Sinha, Getty

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