A small bank with a reputation for big pay is hiring in Hong Kong and Singapore

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The small bank now running a big “hiring project” in Singapore and Hong Kong

It may not be on the radar of most private bankers in Singapore and Hong Kong, but VP Bank is stepping up its hiring in 2019. And joining the boutique firm could land you a hefty pay rise, say headhunters.

Liechtenstein-based VP is running a ‘Relationship Manager Hiring Project’, which aims to recruit 75 new RMs globally in the three years to end-December 2019, according to its newly released 2018 annual report. The bank still has 27 RMs to hire this year, and about 14 of them (roughly 50% of the global total) will be based in Asia.

While this target would not be particularly onerous for a market-leading private bank (UBS, for example, took on 101 bankers last year in Asia) , it’s big for VP. The firm failed to make the 70-RM threshold for inclusion in the top-20 private banks in Asia by headcount in 2017, according to Asian Private Banker. Adding 14 bankers will amount to double-digit headcount growth in the space of just 12 months.

VP is also recruiting more broadly in Singapore, where it announced new plans last year to double its headcount (including RMs and support staff) from 50 to 100 between 2018 and 2021. The hires will be based in VP’s recently expanded offices in Asia Square, after it acquired adjacent space formerly leased by BlackRock. The expansion follows VP Bank’s decision last year to convert its Singapore subsidiary to a full branch and upgrade its merchant bank licence to a wholesale banking one. This allows VP’s Singapore bankers to offer financing services to credit-hungry Asian clients.

The bank’s Asian ambitions were given a boost in March last year when veteran banker Thomas Meier joined its board. Meier spent 10 years as Julius Baer’s Asia boss during a time when the Swiss bank undertook a huge hiring spree in the region. Recent VP recruits include UBS banker Reto Marx, who joined in January as head of client business. Samuel Witjaksono (Indonesia market head), Claude Chevroulet (chief operating officer), and Karen Tan (head of wealth management) have also come on board.

Why would you leave a firm like UBS to join VP Bank in Singapore? “Probably the most important reason is the pay increment, which is usually much higher than what major banks can offer,” says Liu San Li, a former private banker, now a business partner at wealth management firm Avallis in Singapore.

Compared with the larger players, expansionist boutiques like VP are also more inclined to hand out promotions in rank to their new joiners, adds San Li. While big banks tend to pigeonhole RMs into covering one country, boutiques typically allow them to have clients across multiple Asian markets. If you want to join VP in Singapore, its “core clients” are based in Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia, Singapore chief executive Bruno Morel said last year, adding that the bank also serves China from the city state.

VP Bank also has a “decent platform” for RMs focused on the burgeoning external asset manager (EAM) segment in Asia, says former Merrill Lynch private banker Rahul Sen, now a global leader in private wealth management at search firm Boyden.

Still, it won’t necessarily be straightforward for VP to meet its Asian hiring goals, because other boutique private banks are also trying to lure RMs from the likes of Credit Suisse, UBS and Julius Baer. Just this week, Union Bancaire Privée (UBP) upgraded to a wholesale licence in Singapore, a move that will trigger more senior hiring. And as we reported in January, Pictet plans to boost its workforce in Asia this year.

There have also been departures from VP Bank. Most notably, its head of private banking in Singapore, Kimmis Pun, left in January after just 10 months in her role, a departure that the bank attributed to “management streamlining”.

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Image credit: csfotoimages, Getty

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