HSBC to boost retail wealth staff in S'pore

It will also ramp up insurance business, launch digital offerings

HONG KONG • HSBC Holdings plans to boost its Asia retail wealth management staff by about 300 by the year end, with Europe's biggest lender by assets sharpening its focus on Singapore to add to its presence in the core markets of Hong Kong and China.

London-headquartered HSBC, which makes more than 80 per cent of its profit in Asia, will boost its wealth staff in Singapore by 50 and launch new digital offerings this year, said Mr Kevin Martin, its Asia-Pacific head of retail banking and wealth management.

While HSBC did not disclose its current wealth management headcount in Singapore, the bank's business of offering advice and investment products to affluent clients in the city-state is smaller compared with its presence in China and Hong Kong.

"It's fair to say that our entire business in Singapore underperformed, and we haven't hidden from that fact," Mr Martin told Reuters in a recent interview, referring to the bank's retail banking and wealth management unit.

"As we build Asia wealth... there is a really significant opportunity in Singapore, not just onshore Singapore, but offshore Singapore," he said, adding that the bank expects the country to be a "growth engine" over the next few years.

HSBC's retail banking and wealth management division serves clients with less than US$5 million (S$6.9 million) of investable assets, while those with more than that threshold are taken up by the bank's private banking unit.

Singapore's high-net-worth population, those with investable assets of US$1 million or more, rose 11.5 per cent in 2017, as per consultant Capgemini's latest wealth report, ahead of China's 11.2 per cent, Japan's 9.4 per cent and Australia's 9.2 per cent.

Of respondents in a survey conducted by trade publication Asian Private Banker in July last year, 58 per cent ranked Singapore as the most preferred offshore wealth management hub, followed by Hong Kong, Switzerland and London.

HSBC is looking to target both onshore as well as offshore clients, with a large number of rich individuals in China, India and other South-east Asian nations looking for wealth management services in Singapore, Mr Martin said.

In Singapore, HSBC will compete with global rivals such as Citigroup and Standard Chartered, as well as South-east Asia's biggest lender, DBS Group Holdings.

As part of its plans to grow its Asia wealth business, HSBC also intends to ramp up its insurance distribution and product offerings in Singapore, Hong Kong and China, Mr Martin said.

Yesterday, the bank rebranded its Singapore insurance business to HSBC Life Singapore, and launched two new whole-life plans for its retail and high-net-worth segments.

It is also expanding its distribution channels by partnering independent financial advisory firms that serve a broad spectrum of retail to emerging affluent customers.

Currently, HSBC Life Singapore's distribution model includes a bancassurance arrangement with HSBC Bank and third-party distribution arrangements with other financial institutions.

With additional information from The Business Times

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 30, 2019, with the headline 'HSBC to boost retail wealth staff in S'pore'. Print Edition | Subscribe