Private banks in Asia are renown for tapping talent from each other, not growing their own staff from scratch. Credit Suisse, however, is trying to redress the balance.
The firm has just recruited 43 private banking analysts in Singapore and Hong Kong into its graduate training programme – around double its 2015 intake.
The increased graduate hiring is part of a wider push into Asian wealth management unveiled by Credit Suisse CEO Tidjane Thiam in October last year.
The Swiss bank hired 100 experienced relationship managers in Asia Pacific in the year to end-June, taking its regional RM headcount to 650. It aims to have an 800-strong workforce by 2018.
Jullie Kan, vice chairman of South East Asia private banking at Credit Suisse, says building a “pipeline of future talent” via analyst traineeships is just as important as hiring more senior staff from other banks.
“Our market leaders and team leaders of the various country desks – Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, etc – decide the number of new analysts they need,” Kan, a 40-year industry veteran, tells eFinancialCareers.
Aspiring private banking analysts at Credit Suisse must first get through a recruitment process as rigorous as any in investment banking.
This involves a group assessment, aptitude and sales-skills test, an interview with the hiring manager and HR, and a final-stage meeting with the whole team.
“In the group assessment you debate topics, and we look at how you handle objections and your sense of logic. Can you deliberate, can you argue your point?” says Kan, who's also a senior advisor for the bank’s “grow your own” talent initiatives in Asian private banking.
Credit Suisse needs graduates with “selling, listening and analytical skills, social savviness, a good sense of maths, and technical financial skills,” she adds.
Kan also says she wants to develop “sensitive” RMs who are able to deliver bad news to clients.
“We want our bankers to be equipped to have this kind of conversation, in a tough market environment and not just when it’s a bull run. We want them to experience upheaval situations where they understand that it takes a lot more sensitivity when handling a client’s emotions.”
Training to be a Credit Suisse private banker
Credit Suisse doesn’t put graduates in front of clients straight away, however – its private banking analyst programme in Singapore and Hong Kong lasts 24 months.
The first year includes a one-month onboarding, followed by an 11-month rotation around departments such as the COO office, product, and investment research.
You’ll get drilled on both hard and soft skills – from client pitches and presentations to dressing, fine dining and wine appreciation.
And there’s training on how you’d handle the corporate needs of your eventual clients, such as IPOs, mergers and joint ventures. Some trainees might be rotated into Credit Suisse’s strategic advisory and private assets group, the unit which advises RMs on cross-selling investment banking products to the ultra rich in Asia.
“After 12 months, when you’ve done all the technical training, we use former private bankers to test your understanding of what you’ve learnt, via role playing,” says Kan.
If you get past this test you go on to the second year of the analyst programme and you get the job title assistant relationship manager.
ARMs are assigned to the desk that hired them and attached to a specific relationship manager (or sometimes two). “You support them – see how they function, attend client meeting as an observer,” explains Kan.
While working as an ARM you must also complete Credit Suisse courses, such as ‘global train to relationship manger’.
When you pass that your 24 months as an analyst trainee is over. You lose your ‘assistant’ title and become a junior relationship manager, able to deal directly with clients for the first time.
“We seed you some clients and assets under management and you get a mentor who’s been with the bank for at least five to 10 years,” says Kan.
“The more senior RMs still attend meetings with you and help you plan meetings – there’s some hand holding. People typically spend about two years as junior RMs,” she adds.
But are Credit Suisse’s expanding ranks of young bankers becoming a poaching target for other firms?
“Like any bank we have some attrition, but many of the analysts stay with us,” says Kan. “In Asian private banking not many firms will give you start-up capital like we do.”
She adds: “You might get a job offer with 20% more base salary from a boutique hoping to clinch market share, but many of your clients are franchise clients who are attached to Credit Suisse, so you might start from a zero base and a smaller platform. It won’t be easy.”
Applications for the 2017 analyst programme in Hong Kong and Singapore close on 20 September.
The bank also holds one-day educational events in both cities each September where an invited group of prospective applicants can find out more about the training programme and about the wealth management industry in Asia.
Credit Suisse recruits from local and foreign universities – 85% of this year’s Singapore intake came from colleges in the city state, for example.
Kan says students in Asia are becoming more interested in private banking because it’s a “sustainable career” where you build long-term relationships and don’t move from deal to deal as you do in investment banking.
“There are more investment banking analyst roles around because banks always need juniors to do pitch books, background preparation etc. But only a very small percentage will turn out to be good coverage investment bankers,” she says.
“Private banking isn’t rocket science – if you’ve got personality, business acumen and hunger to succeed you can make it.”
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