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Asia leads financial recovery

Published on Friday, 27 Aug 2010
Hong Kong’s financial institutions are competing for top talent as they roll out new products.
Photo: AFP

While the degree of recovery in the European and American banking and financial markets remains in some doubt, the mood across the Asian banking sector appears buoyant, as strong performance outweighs concerns about uncertainties in the global growth outlook.

Recruitment professionals say steps taken by the mainland to provide increased opportunities is creating a need for renminbi product, marketing and banking professionals to work in risk management.

At the same time, Hong Kong's banks are actively recruiting talent for front and back-office functions and their wealth management business models.

Nita Law, Standard Chartered's head of human resources for northeast Asia, says competition among banks and financial institutions to attract high-calibre talent is vigorous as organisations roll out new products and services to satisfy customer needs.

As a strength-based organisation, Standard Chartered focuses on providing employees, including new recruits, with customer-centric training programmes and opportunities for professional development.

"When an employee meets our hiring criteria, we look at the various ways they fit with the culture of the organisation. We also look at identifying the most appropriate position for our employees, matched to their skill levels and abilities.

"We believe that employees who are given plenty of career development opportunities provide better services to our customers and are more likely to develop their careers with the bank," Law says.

She says that the bank's comprehensive training programmes ensure employees have a clear understanding of products and become compliant with industry regulations and internal operating policies. There are also mechanisms to fast-track those with ability, and who show a strong emphasis towards excellence in customer service and a willingness to develop their careers.

To keep pace with expansion, Citi Private Bank is hiring 40 bankers and investment specialists across Asia, primarily in Hong Kong and Singapore.

"We are looking for people with at least 10 years of banking experience in any discipline," says Sam Tse, managing director and global market manager of Citi Private Bank.

"It is important they have gone through at least one volatile business cycle so that they understand the dynamics of the markets and appreciate clients' different investment psychology."

Meanwhile, Enid Yip, Bank Sarasin's CEO for Asia, says the Swiss bank's Asian business is growing quickly, but the focus remains firmly on sustainability and delivering services from a position of strength.

"We have a long-term growth strategy, but I think we may be the only private bank that has not announced we are going to hire hundreds of relationship managers over the next one to three years," Yip says. "The most important aspect is client satisfaction, not the number of relationship managers sitting at desks. I believe it is possible to maintain a strong business position providing you maintain deep relationships with clients. We intend to do this by being home to some of Asia's most respected and seasoned private bankers."

According to Joanna Chu, head of north Asia for Barclays Wealth, the wealth management industry has gone through significant changes in the past three years. "In response to changes in the industry, we have hired bankers from the corporate and investment sectors who are able to advise clients on their commercial and private wealth needs," she says.

In Hong Kong, Barclays is aiming to increase its number of experienced private bankers by about 50 compared with the level in January. It is also seeking to hire investment advisory, trust structuring, research and product specialists.

Chu says Barclays Wealth takes a multipronged approach to growing its talent base in Asia. "We not only hire experienced bankers, we also believe in training our own home-grown talent to build a strong pipeline of talented bankers for the future."

An introduction programme has a blended learning approach consisting of classroom courses, e-learning, coaching and on-the-job training.

"Training is crucial as ensuring the currency of skills and knowledge among staff is an important part of our strategy for maintaining a high-quality talent pool. We also believe the quality of our talent pool can only be maintained through providing staff with the right tools, resources and support," Chu says.

Banking professionals transferring to private banking from other areas will undergo a bridging programme designed to prepare them for what is expected of them as a private banker.

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