Fuelled by Hong Kong private banks' attempts to outmanoeuvre each other in the search for talent to help Asia's swelling ranks of millionaires manage their money, Citi Private Bank says it will continue to focus on recruiting wealth management professionals who are at the top of their game.
Steven Lo, Hong Kong global market manager for Citi Private Bank, says for north and south Asian markets, the bank will continue to ride on the momentum of last year's recruiting efforts, which enabled Citi to attract talent from across the financial services landscape, covering traditional private banks as well as corporate and investment banking.
"Due to our platform strength and broad capabilities, we focus our hiring efforts across our key markets as well as on product specialists who have strong investment advisory and relationship management skills," says Lo.
Rather than focus on specific recruitment numbers, Lo says Citi is always prepared to consider candidates who fit its recruitment criteria - top-calibre individuals to work in the roles of private banker, capital markets specialist for investment, portfolio and foreign exchange, investment finance specialist and trust consultants.
According to a recent Boston Consulting Group report, the Asia-Pacific region's share of global wealth will rise to almost 20 per cent in 2014 from 15 per cent last year, with China and India driving the momentum.
Headhunters say increased competition to manage Asia's growing wealth has led to a shortage of qualified private bankers in Hong Kong. As a result, turnover among advisers in search of bigger salaries is returning to pre-crisis levels. At the same time, banks are expanding their searches and are willing to look beyond the sector to find relationship managers.
Lo says Citi is looking at strengthening certain positions, including front-office and back-office roles.
"Ultimately, all positions have a very strong client focus, whether they are external or internal. Each role requires the incumbent to be strong team players, as much of client satisfaction - and ultimately the bank's success - derives from strong partnerships between colleagues within and across departments," Lo says.
He recommends that applicants make an effort to understand fully what private banking - particularly Citi Private Bank - is all about before attending an interview. He also suggests that candidates forget about the notion that being a private banker is all about glamour.
"Our employees are some of the hardest-working people in finance because it is never easy managing someone else's money," Lo says.
He says although each role within the private bank is unique, there is a strong common theme of "getting the job done" embraced by each individual, regardless of seniority.
"The result is a highly motivated and hard-working group of colleagues who enjoy coming to work every day. Being with like-minded colleagues is a major attraction," Lo says.
Citi is not only one of the largest wealth managers in Asia-Pacific, it also has the widest footprint of any international bank, so candidates have the opportunity to work with globally minded colleagues who have typically graduated at the top of their class.
Lo also believes the bank's management associate programme is one of the firm's major strengths for recruiting, training and maintaining a future pipeline of managers.
"As such, we seldom look externally for less experienced management candidates. When we do hire managers from external sources, we typically look for someone with at least 10 years of experience in their field," Lo says.
He adds that while Citi does recruit candidates from non-banking backgrounds, the firm generally looks for individuals who have excelled in their particular field of expertise, including engineering, maths and social science.
"We believe this brings a level of educational diversity that can only improve the services we offer our private banking clients," Lo says.