Singapore calling all private bankers

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Private bankers looking for a change should direction their attention towards Singapore. By all accounts, the island state is in dire need of their talents.

"Singapore is suffering from an acute shortage of relationship managers," says Catherine Tillotson, head of research at private banking consultancy the Scorpio Partnership. "Estimates suggest the country needs around 1,000 extra private bankers."

Headhunters confirm the crisis. "Every big bank, from Credit Suisse to UBS, Citigroup and HSBC, is saying we need to hire private banking talent and where can we find it?" says Henry Philip, a consultant in the Hong Kong office of recruitment firm Alexander Mann. "The number of traditional private bankers with established relationships in Singapore is limited," he adds.

Singapore is not the only Asian country in need of private banking expertise. Philippe Eisenbeiss, a consultant at search firm Executive Access, says they are also needed in Hong Kong, while Leon Flint at search firm Global Sage, says China, Japan and India are the fastest growing geographic markets for private banking. Banks which previously served customers in these countries out of Singapore and Hong Kong will increasingly look to place teams of private bankers on the ground.

In the short term, however, Singapore looks set to remain the hotbed for private banking hiring in the region. Most large private banks have their Asian headquarters in the country, and last April Credit Suisse transferred its international private banking headquarters there from Zurich. Singapore's pre-eminence as a private banking centre is being fostered by its government, which has promoted low taxes, stringent banking secrecy laws, and a Wealth Management Institute intended to train a new generation of private bankers.

Philip at Alexander Mann says Singapore's private banks are drawing private bankers from wherever they can. "Private banks are looking at lawyers, management consultants, corporate bankers, and investment bankers," he says: "Pretty much anyone with a good level of education and a history of relationship management can pick up the nuts and bolts of private banking."

Unsurprisingly, pay in the country is rising. A few years ago, Tillotson says private banking relationship managers working in Singapore could command US$150,000 in total pay. Today, she says packages of between US$250,000 and US$300,000 are the norm.

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