Standard Chartered Bank has stepped up its hiring from Barclays' private-banking team in Hong Kong ahead of the transfer of the business to OCBC Bank, in a move that underscores the stiff competition for wealth managers in Asia.
Over 10 Barclays relationship managers in Hong Kong are joining StanChart, which is expanding its wealth business in the region after hiring global private-banking head Didier von Daeniken from Barclays in March, said people familiar with the matter, who asked not be named as the move has not been disclosed.
About 20 Barclays relationship managers are expected to join OCBC's private-banking unit in Hong Kong, one person said.
The exodus from Barclays - which agreed in April to sell its private-banking operations in Hong Kong and Singapore to OCBC for about US$320 million (S$439 million) - highlights the demand for experienced wealth managers in Asia that is pushing costs higher.
The defections are also a reminder of the risk of trying to buy market share in an industry where successful relationship managers often take their best clients with them.
"Attrition is part and parcel of any business and we have not expected zero employee attrition at Barclays," said Mr Jeffrey Chiam, global human resources head at Bank of Singapore, OCBC's private-banking unit. Representatives at Barclays and StanChart declined to comment.
The final price of the acquisition will depend on the size of Barclays assets under management when the deal is completed by the year end, according to Mr Chiam. "We will therefore be paying a fair value for the business."
Despite the loss of some Barclays private bankers in Hong Kong, "almost all" the wealth managers in Singapore will be transferring to OCBC at the end of the year, Mr Chiam said.
The US$320 million price announced in April was calculated based on 1.75 per cent of the US$18.3 billion of Barclays assets under management as of last December. Barclays had about 130 relationship managers in Asia as of last year, according to Asian Private Banker. UBS Group, Credit Suisse Group and Julius Baer Group are among other firms expanding their wealth units in the region to service the rising number of Asian millionaires.
Julius Baer plans to base over half of about 200 new bankers it intends to hire this year in Asia, said chief executive Boris Collardi last month.
"The competition for relationship managers has always been intense and will continue to stay that way," said McLagan director for Asia-Pacific wealth management Sean Kang. "The market has only that many experienced relationship managers, and the number of high-net-worth customers is still growing at a much faster rate."
StanChart plans to expand assets under management at its private-banking and wealth operations by US$25 billion over the next three years. It had about 300 relationship managers in Asia as of last year, according to Asian Private Banker.