JPMorgan said to cut about 30 jobs at Asia-Pac wealth division, Singapore office affected

Signage is displayed at a JPMorgan Chase & Co. bank branch in Chicago.
Signage is displayed at a JPMorgan Chase & Co. bank branch in Chicago. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

SINGAPORE/HONG KONG (REUTERS) - JPMorgan Chase & Co has cut 30 jobs, or 5 per cent of its headcount, at its Asia wealth management business, a source with direct knowledge of the matter said, as the US bank sharpens its focus on tapping wealthier clients.

The job cuts would affect the bank's Singapore and Hong Kong offices, the source said, declining to be identified.

More than 10 staff had left in Hong Kong, another person told Bloomberg News earlier.

JPMorgan said in a statement that Edwin Lim, market manager for North Asia high-networth clients, had left the firm. A spokeswoman declined to comment further on job cuts.

The cuts highlight a decision by the bank to refocus on upper-end Asian clients with US$10 million in investable surplus, known as ultra-high networth individuals, up from a US$5-million threshold earlier, the source said.

In March last year, JPMorgan said it had decided to position its Asia wealth management unit as one private bank serving both the rich and the super rich, aligning its business model with other regions.

With 4.7 million individuals with US$1 million in liquid financial assets, Asia-Pacific is the largest and fastest growing wealth region, according to Cap Gemini and RBC.

But some Western banks have recently retreated from the wealth management business in Asia due to rising costs, regulatory risks and competition.

British lender Barclays earlier this month agreed to sell its wealth and investment management business in Hong Kong and Singapore to Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp (OCBC).

"At JP Morgan, we constantly review our coverage to ensure that clients are aligned with the advisors who are best suited to meet their needs," the JPMorgan spokeswoman said in the statement. "Our integrated team approach to service our clients will remain unchanged and fully covered," the statement said, adding the bank remained open to hiring more in the region to grow its wealth management business.

JPMorgan's shift in strategy for its wealth management unit began a few months ago and saw the departure of several private bankers who were targeting the high-networth segment, typically with about US$5 million liquidity, private banking sources said.

Peter Flavel, the former JPMorgan chief executive of private wealth management at Asia Pacific, joined Royal Bank of Scotland Group's Coutts & Co and Adam & Co in February.

Marie Cheung, a spokeswoman for JPMorgan in Hong Kong, declined to comment.