HSBC Holdings Plc headquarters building stands illuminated behind a footbridge at night in the Central district of Hong Kong, China. (Photographer: Anthony Kwan/Bloomberg)

HSBC Is Making a Bet on Asia Millionaires

(Bloomberg) -- HSBC Holdings Plc is planning to increase its wealth-management staff in Asia as Chief Executive Officer John Flint bets on growth in the region.

The bank plans to add more than 1,300 positions, split roughly between retail and private banking, by 2022, according to the heads of the two divisions, which between them currently employ just over 32,000 people in the region. The bulk of the hires, some of which could be internal, will be in Hong Kong and Singapore.

HSBC Is Making a Bet on Asia Millionaires

The wealth strategy is part of Flint’s plan to grow HSBC by expanding in Asian markets including Greater China and Southeast Asia. The CEO, promoted in February, said in June that HSBC will pour as much as $17 billion by 2020 into expanding the region’s business and improving technology. The bank aims to grow revenue from Asia by at least $1 billion during the same period.

“We have a real opportunity to do more and that’s to further build on Hong Kong and to materially build what we do today in Singapore,” Kevin Martin, the firm’s Asia Pacific head of retail banking and wealth management, said in an interview. “Both businesses need to do it in concert,” he said, referring to the retail and private banking units.

HSBC Is Making a Bet on Asia Millionaires

THe London-based bank’s plans for wealth management in Asia, which is dominated by global banks such as UBS Group AG, Citigroup Inc. and Credit Suisse Group AG, come as regional firms including DBS Group Holdings Ltd. and BOC Hong Kong (Holdings) Ltd. are also expanding amid an unprecedented rise in the region’s assets.

HSBC said Monday that Antonio Simoes, who was head of U.K. and Europe, will run global private banking from Jan. 1. Peter Boyles, who currently runs the group, will retire after 43 years at the company.

Offshore wealth in Asia, excluding Japan, has been growing at about 10 percent a year, according to Boston Consulting Group data, faster than the 5 percent globally. Offshore wealth from China alone amounted to about $1 trillion this year, the consulting firm estimated.

Hong Kong’s wealth managers expect to double the money they handle over the next five years to about $2 trillion, the city’s Private Wealth Management Association said in a recent report published with KPMG China, citing the increasing interest of Chinese nationals looking to diversify their holdings.

“The wealth that the Chinese have already offshore is a massive piece of opportunity for us,” said Tan Siew Meng, Asia Pacific head of global private banking at HSBC.

HSBC Is Making a Bet on Asia Millionaires

The expected growth in the industry may exacerbate Hong Kong’s shortage of relationship managers, according to the Private Wealth Management Association’s report. Two-thirds of respondents said a “limited talent pool” was the biggest supply-side constraint.

Martin said the 1,300 staff boost is “not a big scary number” given that his retail bank, including subsidiary Hang Seng Bank Ltd., employs about 31,000 people in the Asia Pacific region. Staff within the group may transfer to the wealth business, he said. Hiring will be both internal and external, and include relationship managers, product specialists and advisers, Tan said. Her private bank had 1,100 staff in the region at the end of last year.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.