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Asia's Fast-Changing Wealth Sector Jobs Market - The Executive Search View

Tom Burroughes, Group Editor , 2 June 2020


A prominent figure in the Asia-Pacific executive search industry catches up with this news service, talking about the trends he sees unfolding in the sector and how it is being affected by the pandemic, and other forces.

Technology, changing client expectations and moves in the geopolitical chessboard have already been shaking up where and how private bankers and wealth managers operate. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated some trends (remote working, use of digital tools), and interfered with others (ability to fly abroad to see clients, book business in specific locations). In the Asia-Pacific region, the competition between the hubs of Hong Kong and Singapore seems, at least on the face of it, to be favouring Singapore due to mainland China’s pressure on Hong Kong. Time will tell how that plays out. Elsewhere, countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines have their opportunities – and challenges. 

This news service talked to Danny Jones, founding partner of Huddleston Jones, the executive search firm operating in the private banking, asset management, external asset management, family office and capital markets sectors. He has commented on issues in the industry before, and we are pleased to catch up with him again. 

These comments are part of a wider set of articles which this news service is running to examine talent management, developments in HR and recruitment trends in wealth management around the world. For more information or to get in touch with the editors, email tom.burroughes@wealthbriefing.com and jackie.bennion@clearviewpublishing.com

Coming out of this crisis and the various lockdowns/suppression methods, what do you think will be the greatest and most enduring changes for private bankers and other wealth managers in Asia-Pacific?
Although there are many factors/contributors and considerations which will continue to follow these “lockdowns”, actually one of the most underrated long term affects we believe could be as simple as perception. We have always thought that many clients will always consider the face-to-face element essential when dealing with their wealth and that of their families… this may no longer be the case. 

The argument for totally electronic access, execution abilities and “fintech” may gradually (not instantly) become more acceptable to end clients. This is not a change for today which will sweep throughout the industry, more that it has proved that given the inability to meet, it can be acceptable and actually a positive to deal “electronically”. Interestingly, if we then take this a step further, banks which could not provide this, or effectively deliver these solutions may “push” clients to banks/institutions which can!

There is a lot of talk about how working from home will go from being a temporary emergency step to becoming more permanent. How far do you think this is correct? Some in-person meetings may have to happen (due diligence checks, meeting new clients with very complex needs) - what is your view?
We feel that “work from home” does not mean no face-to-face meetings. Where working from home limits the largest opportunity for contracting “a virus” due to the sheer volume drop of contact, the face-to-face meeting is still only one on one. Of course this is simplified when not considering air travel and the like. However, we also see a great many changes to the controls in place to board an aircraft and enter a country, so we feel this risk should be mitigated somewhat.

We also have to consider that for the vast majority of “people” - not just wealth managers - the working from home issue has had significant impact on the psychological well-being of individuals. If we consider the efficacy of them continuing doing that, I believe we would see a sharp downturn in productivity and drive for new business.

Will the way in which market heads, desk heads and other leaders of teams operate have to change due to new working arrangements in the medium term? Will reporting lines have to change?
I believe we have already seen a large change in this area over the last two years. Sales and content management and monitoring by scorecard on many facets of work have already seen improvements from a bank’s perspective. This has, of course, had an impact on layers and in some ways the “matrix” style of management many institutions have today. 

The question is how much emphasis is placed on tangible “objective” measurement, which is normally the realm of IT and electronic means, vs “subjective” personal calls by managers on the performance or “potential” of bankers. Although there are similarities, we still see a large difference between the “retail” styles of measurement versus that of a boutique.

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