DBS not in 'crazy contest' to hire private bankers

DBS' Tan Su Shan says the fight for talent is a case of "supply-demand dynamics" that will be corrected over time.
DBS' Tan Su Shan says the fight for talent is a case of "supply-demand dynamics" that will be corrected over time.

DBS Group Holdings has poured cold water on the idea that private bankers can name their price when jumping ship in Asia's booming wealth management business.

"I don't believe that every bank needs to join in this crazy rush for talent," Ms Tan Su Shan, head of consumer and wealth banking at South-east Asia's largest lender, said yesterday in a Bloomberg Television interview.

She added that DBS is promoting people internally and hiring from other areas of the financial industry to boost its private banking operations.

Competition in Asia's wealth industry is intensifying as the region continues to sprout millionaires more quickly than anywhere else in the world.

That has sparked a labour shortage at private banks, which is enabling experienced money managers to command pay rises of 30 per cent or more when they move to rival firms, Bloomberg reported this month.

Ms Tan said the fight for talent is a case of "supply-demand dynamics" that will be corrected over time.

DBS is building its ranks of relationship managers by hiring and training young employees as well as recruiting older financial-industry professionals who want to switch from other areas such as corporate finance and investment banking, she said.

"You can fill this gap," she added.

She also signalled that rich clients may not necessarily follow their private bankers to another firm. "I think customers will not move their assets as quickly as some private banks might hope they will."

DBS plans to increase the number of relationship managers by 10 per cent to 20 per cent this year, adding to a team of about 200, deputy private-banking head Lawrence Lua said in an interview in January.

As well as hiring, Ms Tan has been building the bank's wealth unit through acquisitions from firms including Societe Generale and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group.

DBS' wealth management unit had assets under management of US$108.5 billion (S$148.4 billion) last year, the sixth-highest in the region, according to Asian Private Banker data.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 15, 2018, with the headline 'DBS not in 'crazy contest' to hire private bankers'. Print Edition | Subscribe