Is it money? Is it status? No, bankers in Asia join Credit Suisse for another reason…
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If you’re a private banker in Singapore or Hong Kong looking to move after pocketing your bonus next year, you have many potential options. As millionaire and billionaire wealth surges across Asia, almost every bank – most notably HSBC and Julius Baer – will be hiring in the first half. So will Credit Suisse, albeit less aggressively.
But with all the employment choices on offer, why might you opt for Credit Suisse? After all, CS is so large in Asia (only UBS tops its assets under management) that many of your clients may already bank with it. And getting into Credit Suisse appears to be getting tougher. The bank’s regional RM workforce stood at 600 in Q3 – up by just 10 people year on year.
For Helman Sitohang, CEO of Asia Pacific at Credit Suisse, there's one clear reason why you should still apply. Speaking at the bank’s 2018 investor day this week, Sitohang extolled the virtues of the bank’s collaborative business strategy in Asia. Its ultra-wealthy private clients in the region tend to be entrepreneurs, so its private bankers work closely with the rest of the firm to provide them with M&A advice and business-focused products.
Sitohang said this ‘integrated’ approach is paying off. ‘Collaboration revenues’ for the first nine months have increased year on year – and they are up 40% from the same period in 2016. AUM in APAC, meanwhile, reached CHF208bn in the third quarter, an increase of CHF18bn from a year previously.
Collaboration is “how we differentiate”, Sitohang told the investor day. But it’s not just about revenue figures – “talents can feel it” as well, Sitohang said, implying that the blending of Asian private banking with advisory, underwriting and financing (the combined unit is called ‘wealth management and connected’ or WM&C) is now helping with recruitment and retention. Team working and collaboration at Credit Suisse in Asia are at an “all-time high”, but the bank is still only “scratching the surface” of what could be achieved by RMs with access to investment banking products and services, Sitohang enthused.
But does all this collaboration with IB really set Credit Suisse apart in the minds of relationship managers in Asia? Deutsche Bank, UBS, Citi, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan all have similar cross-selling capabilities, points out former Merrill Lynch private banker Rahul Sen, now a global leader in private wealth management at search firm Boyden.
Credit Suisse, however, arguably does a better job at coordinating the collaboration, because it has a small, specialist team (called ‘solution partners’) that helps private bankers find investment banking solutions for entrepreneurial clients. “This is especially useful for ultra-high net worth coverage, so CS tries to attract UHNW bankers by offering them access to solution partners,” adds Sen.
And wasn’t all good news during the Asian section of the investor day presentation. Net 2018 revenues in markets – the second (and much smaller) of Credit Suisse’s APAC departments, alongside WM&C – are expected to be 8% to 10% lower than last year.
“We see lower activity both in global markets and APAC markets,” Credit Suisse CEO Tidjane Thiam told Bloomberg before the investor meeting. “More in APAC markets -- you have seen the correction in Shanghai and Shenzhen, which is actually quite brutal. That leads to lower activity."