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Wave of optimism in sector

Published on Friday, 07 May 2010
HSBC is recruiting more than 300 frontline staff to meet the demand for wealth management.
Photo: Robert Ng

Amid encouraging signs that the turmoil that has tormented the financial industry for two years could be subsiding, the banking and finance sector is enjoying a fresh wave of optimism.

Growing affluence on the mainland and demand for a wider range of wealth management solutions are being cited as the main drivers for HSBC's latest recruitment drive. Between April 19 and May 17, HSBC is hoping to recruit more than 300 frontline premier relationship managers, wealth management managers and general banking officers.

"These are entirely new positions that offer exciting career opportunities," says Francesca McDonagh, HSBC's head of personal financial services in Hong Kong.

HSBC is looking for dynamic and ambitious candidates who want to develop a career in wealth management. Candidates should have relevant licences and experience. For example, candidates applying for positions as premier relationship managers should ideally hold a university degree and have at least three years of investment or insurance sales experience.

McDonagh says successful candidates can look forward to a competitively remunerated job with opportunities for career advancement. To develop knowledge and experience, recruits take part in an exchange programme between Hong Kong, the mainland and Taiwan. Employees who show drive and ambition can also look forward to promotion. "In recognition of performance, last year 12 per cent of frontline customer-service employees were promoted," she says.

McDonagh says yuan deposits have grown by 6 per cent since the start of the year. In March, deposits made as yuan foreign exchange grew by 90 per cent.

"Our range of [yuan] products are just some of the wealth management solutions that appeal to the rising affluence of our customers across the Greater China region," McDonagh says. Investments in unit trusts have also grown by 100 per cent compared with the first half of last year.

Nick Pollard, chief executive at RBS Coutts Asia, says the Singapore office has been through a period of stabilisation and rebuilding after a significant number of senior professionals left the company last year. "We have filled about 70 per cent of our front, middle and back-office roles, and we would rather wait to hire additional people that fit the business instead of hiring people who might not add value," says Pollard, who moved to Asia last August.

Over the next three years, Coutts plans to recruit another 200 staff in Asia and to double its Asian assets under management, which stand at more than US$23 billion "We have made a strong commitment to Asia. In addition to recruiting new staff, we are also moving key global roles to the region to ensure our international investment strategies contain an Asian flavour," says Pollard, who spent 15 years with Coutts in Britain.

He also expects to offer clients unique investment opportunities through RBS channels.

He also believes clients will become increasing loyal to their banks instead of moving their business each time their relationship manager changes jobs.

"I think clients will be examining far more closely the full range of services their private bank can offer.

"At present, many clients' relationship is with one adviser instead of the bank and team of specialists that are ready to help them," Pollard says.

Andrew Macintosh, National Bank of Australia's (NBA) general manager of banking for Hong Kong, believes the industry still has work to do to restore trust and confidence.

However, being rated the ninth safest bank in the world and holding a strong balance sheet is a positive selling point for NBA.

"While we are not totally immune from current consumer trends, we are growing cautiously along our different business lines and see unique development opportunities," Macintosh says. "We spend a lot of time ensuring our relationship managers focus on forging long-lasting relationships."

He says NBA has specialist strengths in helping individuals and companies with Australian interests to operate in Asia. The bank also helps Asian individuals and enterprises with their business interests in Australia.

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