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Competition hots up for high-calibre staff

Published on Friday, 21 Jan 2011
RBS Coutts is looking to add 200 staff in the next three to four years.
Nancy Lee

Private banks in Hong Kong will have problems this year, but they look like being the kind every organisation wants. Forecasts of a robust economy point to higher levels of personal investment, meaning that one of the biggest challenges will be to recruit enough high-calibre staff to maintain expansion and support new services.

"Finding good candidates is an industry-wide challenge because the pool of good, experienced private bankers who are familiar with Asian clients is relatively small," says Nancy Lee, head of human resources in Asia at RBS Coutts. "With new entrants, this has led to intense competition."

Her own brief is to add about 200 staff in the next three to four years - a 50 per cent increase in the bank's headcount in Asia and reflects an intention to double the size of the business over the same period. There will be a continuing programme to hire frontline private bankers, and for every main type of functional position.

"We are always keen to talk to suitably qualified candidates and encourage referrals from existing staff," Lee says.

She notes the essential task of a private banker is to work with high-net-worth clients, helping to manage their investments according to clearly agreed objectives, such as wealth preservation or enhancement. It might also be necessary to advise on issues relating to a family business, succession planning, and philanthropy. "It is about being incredibly client-focused, making them the centre of everything we do," Lee says. "We want [customers] to feel that they are dealing with the best wealth managers in the business. A lot of banks talk about their platform being the key differentiator, but frankly you can imitate that."

When hiring, the first step is to identify candidates who have knowledge of banking, are team players and show entrepreneurial spirit. After several interviews, they can expect a "competitive" salary and benefits package, training in soft and hard skills, and regular conversations with management about their personal goals.

They will have to demonstrate drive, commitment and initiative. It will be important to take ownership of assigned tasks and to focus on achieving defined objectives, whether those relate to group projects or individual performance targets.

"People who join us tend to be attracted to the brand, our road map for growth, and the opportunities for career advancement," Lee says. "And the bank usually prefers to hire people with some work experience."

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