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Standard Chartered is upping the stakes with its Hong Kong wealth management push

With China reopening its borders with Hong Kong, this is a good time to be a private banker or wealth manager.

Despite the current market and geopolitical uncertainty, Western banks continue to believe in the China growth story and are hiring to reflect that.

“You look across all the banks with wealth management and private banking arms and they’re all hiring,” said one Hong Kong based headhunter.

Standard Chartered is the latest big bank on the look-out for wealth management talent in Hong Kong. Standard Chartered already employs around 5,800 staff in the city and the bank wants to hire between 300 and 500 wealth management staff in Hong Kong this year in a move that is likely to push up salaries as it goes toe-to-toe with HSBC and Citigroup.

The reopening of the borders between Hong Kong and mainland China is the catalyst for Standard Chartered’s race for talent.  “We need to hire more people as we expect there will be a good growth in loan and wealth management demand this year,” Hong Kong  CEO Mary Huen Wai-yi said after the bank’s annual results. “The reopening of the border is set to increase business opportunities in the Greater Bay Area, green finance, fintech and wealth management.”

Standard Chartered is joining a crowded field of banks which expect wealth management to rebound this year and which are taking long term bets. The emerging markets-focused lender may be bullish, but it will face stiff competition. HSBC, for example, has made the aggressive expansion of its wealth management business both in Hong Kong and Singapore as the cornerstone of its ‘pivot to Asia’ strategy and will update investors on its plans at its annual results.  The bank has pledged to invest US$3.35bn in its Asia wealth management operations by 2026 and has hired more than 1,000 people to front line roles since 2021.

Meanwhile, Citigroup has been beefing up the ranks of its private banking effort across the APAC region. In November 2022, the US bank opened its first global wealth management centre in Hong Kong. The opening of the new office comes as Citi wants to capture US$150bn of new client money from wealthy customers in Asia by 2025. UBS said it expects its wealth management business to ‘power away’ this year as China opens up.

“Banks may be cutting back in investment banking, but there’s no sign of a slowdown in their commitment to private banking and wealth management,” the headhunter said.

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Photo by Klim Musalimov on Unsplash

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AUTHORDavid Rothnie Insider Comment

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