Few privations for private bankers in Singapore

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The controversial double bed introduced by Singapore Airlines for its most well-heeled passengers says it all - the island is booming.

Private bankers to manage all this wealth are still in desperately short supply. The number of millionaires on the island is expected to hit 29,000 by 2011, an increase of 7% a year, according to Datamonitor.

Banks are staffing up heavily in response. The private banking arm of Credit Suisse plans to double its Asian revenues and staff over the next few years. SG has just opened a private banking operation in Singapore, Julius Baer plans to add another 100 Asian private bankers to the 240 it already employs in Asia by 2010, and ABN AMRO Singapore has been hiring relationship managers of different nationalities to manage its expatriate clients in the region. The list goes on....

This doesn't mean, unfortunately, that you can walk into a private banking job in Singapore if you've spent the past few years manning the cash desk at Lloyds TSB. Experience is the operative word.

"The banks want people who can bring in and nurture clients," says Christian Sulger Buel, managing director of Sulger Buel & Co. "And if you want to attract Swiss or Middle Eastern clients, for instance, it makes sense to recruit international private bankers who are used to dealing with these types of people," he adds.

"There is a shortage of experienced private bankers out there. I know of at least a couple of banks that are looking to bring people in from outside the area," agrees Dudley Edmunds, of recruitment firm Culliford Edmunds.

While Hong Kong tends to attract more ethnic or expatriate Chinese talent, Singapore is popular with British bankers, particularly as English is still the main language.

Base salary and bonus packages are generally - although not always - on a par with European or US positions, says Edmunds. He declined to give any figures, but our own research suggests Singapore private banking salaries are anything from 40k to 100k, plus a bonus.

Other attractions include a more favourable tax regime, better quality of life and lower living costs. But double bed or not, a key downside is the distance: "If you are supporting Middle Eastern and European clients from Singapore, it will be a lot of travelling," cautions Sulger-Buel.

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