Late last month we speculated that vacancies at HSBC’s private bank in Asia would be among those most likely to survive the firm’s hiring freeze. New Hong Kong job postings on HSBC’s careers site indicate that this is indeed the case, and that the unit’s planned expansion is still taking place during the pandemic.
Five private banking positions have gone live since the start of this month, despite HSBC’s global freeze, which was imposed on 26 March in response to the impact of Covid-19. There are also some pre-freeze private banking openings that remain online. HSBC said in March that a “small number of frontline and business-critical roles” would still go ahead.
While private banking contributes a fairly minor proportion of HSBC’s overall profit, it is becoming more profitable and more important to the firm’s expansion plans under CEO Noel Quinn, which involve a renewed focus on high-growth Asian markets at the expense of the US and Europe. Profit before tax for the first quarter of 2020 tumbled 48% year-on-year at HSBC, but Asian profit in private banking increased by the same percentage to $144m.
HSBC’s Q1 financial report says it “invested” in its private banking business in Asia. This is likely a reference to hiring. As we reported in March, HSBC plans to recruit 500 private banking and wealth management staff in Asia by 2022, including an undisclosed but significant number of Hong Kong and Singapore-based private bankers.
HSBC private banking vacancies in Hong Kong currently include a senior relationship manager in ultra-high net worth (UHNW), who will need to grow the bank's share of the UHNW “client wallet”. The firm set up a new Hong Kong-based unit to serve UHNW clients in March 2019 and made several senior front-office hires into its private bank last year. Its headcount of Asian RMs increased 19.2% year-on-year to reach 645 at the end of 2019, the highest organic rise of any top-10 bank in the region, according to Asian Private Banker.
Hiring at HSBC isn’t just focused on RMs. Private banking vacancies include a ‘new business take on specialist’ (a KYC-focused role) and a product specialist, who will provide advice on structured products and work closely with RMs and investment counsellors.
Although the job market is generally geared in favour of employers, HSBC may not find it entirely straightforward to take on more talent in Asian private banking, because several of its competitors – most notably Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Deutsche Bank – are also continuing to hire.
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