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Dressing up, dumbing down

Finding suitable talent to staff the growing private banking markets in Asia has always been a challenge. But recently the problem has become so acute that some industry observers have discerned a new hiring trend among banks.

Private banking bonanza prompts difficult decisions “The typical Asian private banking client is mid-40s, male and smart,” says one insider. “So what you really need as advisers are grey-haired private bankers who’ve been through the cycles. But there aren’t nearly enough of those around and meanwhile you’re growing at 30% per annum.”

Faced with a chronic human resource shortage, banks have come up with a neat solution. Since the private banking model in Asia is overwhelmingly advisory and Asian clients tend to be extremely market savvy, banks have found a new source of talent to tap, a strategy dubbed a little unkindly by one practitioner as the ‘private banking girlie model’.

“They’ve found a nice little compromise,” he says, “an endless supply of young, bright bankers who learn fast and are very efficient. For taking instructions and executing they’re great. What makes the model work is a lot of these bankers are female – smart, well-dressed and attractive.”

Many of these raw recruits have been sourced from the mass affluent divisions of the huge retail banks, some with very little in the way of market experience, let alone an investment cycle. The strategy has paid off so far since Asia’s capital markets have been so bullish.

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