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EXCLUSIVE: New Singapore CEO At International Bank Is Upbeat On Asia

Tom Burroughes

20 July 2018

There is a new chief executive at Royal Bank of Canada’s Singapore branch and head of wealth management for southeast Asia in the person of Mike Reed, this publication can reveal.

Reed, who took up the role from 1 June after holding senior roles in Europe, North Asia and North America, is well known to this news service and took time out to discuss how he sees opportunities in the region. Reed most recently spent a year in RBC’s Hong Kong office as managing director and head of client and business development, which remains a part of his remit.
WealthBriefingAsia recently met Reed and colleagues at their offices in Singapore’s financial district. He took on the role at after Ms Tho Gea Hong left to pursue an external opportunity.

“For RBC Wealth Management, Singapore is a key jurisdiction as part of our global wealth management offering. Within Asia, Singapore has gained respect and credibility compared to other international financial centres by focusing on active and evolving regulation, quality talent and independence. These are some of the core aspects that most clients are looking for. As wealth is transferred from first generation to subsequent generations and businesses are liquidated or diversified, Singapore becomes a key location to protect and grow financial assets,” Reed said. 

“Many of Asia’s global families will choose Singapore or Hong Kong as their local jurisdiction of choice. Time zone, proximity, language and culture are all reasons why Singapore is a popular choice,” Reed continued. 

Those comments come at a time when some international firms, such as ABN AMRO, Barclays, Societe Generale and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group have sold Asian private banking arms, failing to achieve the profitable scale they had hoped for. On the other hand, rivals such as UBS, Credit Suisse, Julius Baer, Citigroup, Union Bancaire Privée, JP Morgan and BNP Paribas continue to push out into Asia, and of course domestic operators such as DBS, Bank of Singapore and UOB are not sitting still. While RBC has in the past trimmed booking centres to focus on particular areas, Reed’s comments certainly suggest that Asia is an important part of the Canadian bank’s plans.

“At RBC Wealth Management, we understand the importance of Asia as one of our core jurisdictions of Canada, the US and the UK. This includes immigration, property acquisition, business and education. Once families create ties to these regions, a large number will decide to make a more permanent change, which translates to money moving from generation to generation and country to country. With Asia being the future of wealth creation, we realise that this is an important business for our enterprise - working with Asia’s global families,” he said. 

Reed’s longevity as an RBC senior figure is in some ways quite typical of a bank that puts a lot of stress on stability, even a sort of Canadian unfussiness (the bank avoided most of the big blows from the 2008 financial crackup, retaining a relatively stout balance sheet and capital buffer). Reed has been with RBC for 17 years, holding senior roles in Canada, the US and the UK. 

“We currently have a solid team of wealth managers focused on Southeast Asian and North Asian clients. This complements similar teams in Hong Kong, with Iggy Chong running our Hong Kong private banking and Joel Goh leading our Hong Kong brokerage businesses. Together this gives the right mix of choice of service, expertise and geography that is dependent on the priorities and goals of our clients. Ultimately, we want the right people in the right roles. Of course this means that we look to active hiring and continuous development of our talent bench strength in order to support our growth strategy,” he said. 

Talk of talent management led Reed to make broader points about diversity and hiring. “Women and next generation advisors are key for us to hire and support. Considering the importance they will play in the future of wealth, we realise that we need to focus on developing and supporting this talent and we are pleased that our current private banking team across Singapore and Hong Kong comprises of 67 per cent women,” he said. Reed’s comments came as his colleagues in North America, for example, have revamped HR policy to widen the search net to draw in advisors with more diverse backgrounds. 

“In Asia, the vast majority of our wealth managers are local hires,” Reed said. 

Reed added that RBC’s “balanced scorecard” approach to rewarding managers meant that people are judged by as much as how they do they job as by any simple focus on new money through the door. This is designed to align the long-term health of the firm and its clients with how staff operate.