Intense competition to manage the money of Asia’s burgeoning army of millionaires pushes significant pay hikes for wealth managers

Those that are willing to jump to a rival are getting increases of 30% and beyond in Hong Kong and Singapore, according to private bankers and recruiters.

Derrick Tan, head of Greater China and North Asia at Bank of Singapore, called it a “crazy market.” The private bank of oversea- Chinese Banking Corp. aims to double the number of relationship managers it had in Hong Kong and Singapore within two years. Tan states: “Every day we’re still discovering new high-net-worth clients.”

The two cities, the region’s biggest private banking hubs, probably have fewer than 10,000 licensed relationship managers, according to Credit Suisse Group AG—which stands as the region’s third largest private bank. Last year, almost 2000 new millionaires were minted every day in the region, according to data from Capgemini SE.

Amy Lo, a 30-year veteran of the industry and head of Hong Kong’s Private Wealth Management Assosiation stated: “For a huge market like this, it’s certainly not enough. That’s why we are seeing a talent war.”

“It won’t be easy to retain people when they can easily get a 20-30% premium and an upgrade in title.” He added.

Seven out of ten wealth clients in Asia are entrepreneurs and as they hand over the reins to the next generation, the demand for expertise to manage the family’s investments is growing, said Lo, who is also UBS Group AG’s head of wealth management for Greater China.

On average a relationship manager at a major bank handled $341 mn in assets under management, or AUM, last year, according to Asian Private Banker. Those who change employer, typically bring with them up to half the assets they manage for clients, bankers and recruiters stated.

“AUM means everything,” said Geoffrey Bevan, practice leader for private banking in Hong Kong at recruiter Asia Carbon Search. “Banks make a significant amount of money on the AUM, so they’ve got the ability to pay. Anybody who is a top performer, with strong AUM and return on assets, is going to be in demand and people are willing to pay for that.”

Base salary increases can be from 30-45%. Bevan said:“This is the biggest increment that I’ve seen in 10 years.”