Newbie Among Asia's Biggest Private Banks Aims to Ramp Up Hiring

(Bloomberg) -- BOC Hong Kong (Holdings) Ltd., which broke into the ranks of the 20 biggest private banks in Asia four years after getting into the business, is stepping up its expansion in the region.

Wendy Tsang, managing director at BOC Hong Kong Private Banking, said in an interview last week that she’s aiming to boost the number of relationship managers by at least 20 percent from the current 120 -- and, if there’s enough available talent, by up to 50 percent. The unit of Bank of China Ltd. will recruit both externally and internally as it integrates its parent’s Southeast Asian operations, acquired over the past two years.

Newbie Among Asia's Biggest Private Banks Aims to Ramp Up Hiring

BOC Hong Kong, which started private banking in 2012 with just three employees, is now one of only two Chinese banks among Asia’s top 20 players in the segment. With Asia’s millionaires adding to their wealth faster than anywhere else in the world, private banks in the region have unleashed a spree of acquisitions and hiring in the past few years.

“In view of the market I hope we can have another at least 20, 30 percent,” Tsang said, referring to how much she’s aiming to increase headcount. “But if we can get 50, perfect.”

BOC Hong Kong is also taking advantage of China’s plans to expand its influence abroad by financing trade and infrastructure projects, and helping develop the Greater Bay Area around the southern province of Guangdong. The lender has completed the acquisitions of Bank of China’s businesses in six southeast Asian countries including Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand in the past 20 months.

“We want to capture the opportunities from national strategic initiatives,” Tsang said.

The bank has leveraged its 100 years in Hong Kong serving the city’s conglomerates and wealthy families through its commercial and retail banking arms, and has attracted new business from Chinese holding assets offshore who now account for about 50 percent of the private bank’s client base, Tsang said.

The firm ranked 18th among Asia’s private banks, with $30 billion of assets under management in 2017, according to Asian Private Banker, up from $25 billion in 2016, the year it broke into the top 20. Total AUM at the region’s 20 largest private banks -- excluding China onshore -- surged 29 percent last year to top $2 trillion for the first time.

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