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Private Bankers: I’m Coming Home

Posted on December 2020

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BS Group’s private banking unit has seen its business activity rebound to pre-COVID levels. It sees robust growth in the private banking business, led by family offices. According to Joseph Poon, head of DBS Private Bank, "they pretty much see Singapore as a lighthouse to the region."

Reality is family offices from Europe and the United States were increasingly looking to diversify to Asia. Asia is the world’s fastest-growing wealth market. How does it impact Singapore private banking & wealth management industry? Andrew Zee, senior vice president, private banking and wealth management at Selby Jennings Singapore, shared his view with Asian Private Banker.

Opportunities in Private Banking & Wealth Management

"We are seeing a trend that both Western private bankers working in Asia and foreign-educated Asian private bankers working in Europe or the US — to consider moving back to their native countries," said Zee. According to Swiss bank UBS’ new Billionaires Insights Report 2020, Asia-Pacific has more billionaires than any other region. Excitingly, according to Knight Frank’s Wealth Report 2020, Asia’s UHNWI population growth outpaces other global regions, while Singapore’s UHNWI population set to grow by 29% by 2024. No surprise that we see billionaire Ray Dalio set to open Family Office in Singapore; as well as JPMorgan recently announced to double Singapore private bankers for rich Chinese. The opportunities in Singapore private wealth sector is promising.

Supportive Government Policies

Singapore government has been very supportive of local Singaporean. Since June 2020, the Ministry of Manpower has been tightening the foreign workers work pass and other fair hire regulations to support “Singaporean first”. Recently, Singapore tells firms to hire more locals to earn incentives under Covid-19 stimulus jobs’ growth scheme. Singapore government is encouraging hires for Singaporean – that makes Singaporean returnees feel welcoming.

More Potential Vacancies

While the government is tightening the foreign workers work pass in Singapore, Employment Pass application time has been extended to probably a month or two — compared to around two weeks previously. Although this is just a delay due to the lockdown, foreigners have left Singapore.

“There was either a restructuring of their roles, or they decided that because of the pandemic. It made more sense to return home and be with their family or loved ones. In some instances, the candidates preferred to return home and have a career change,” explained Zee.

On top of that, over the last few years, Singapore banks have been cutting expat bankers’ benefits, to the point that most banks are now “doing away” with expat packages. As now there is a sharp drop in foreigners for Singapore, down 2% to 1.64 million, more potential vacancies are on the table for Singaporean.

We Have The Skillsets

There has been an increasing focus on mainland China business. In June, Reuters reported that leading private banks plan to increase staff managing Chinese and Hong Kong wealth offshore by up to a third, largely focusing on Singapore. Because of so, 80-90% of employers consider the ability to communicate in Mandarin a must. Compared to a decade ago, which only 45-50% of employers had a slight preference for bankers able to speak Mandarin.

This actually has made the private banking industry less appealing to expats. However, according to the population census, Mandarin is the most frequently spoken language at home for Singaporean. Furthermore, the Singapore government promotes Mandarin among Singaporean Chinese people, since it views the language as a bridge between Singapore's diverse non-Mandarin speaking groups, and as a tool for forging a common Chinese cultural identity. China's economic rise in the 21st century has also encouraged greater use of Mandarin. Singaporean has the advantage in terms of required language skills.

I’m Coming Home

Opportunities in Singapore for private banking space is booming. If you are looking to come home and looking for opportunities, contact our specialist team.

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