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HSBC on track to hire more than 1,000 Asian wealth roles this year in US$3.5 billion bet on region’s growing billionaires

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© SCMP HSBC is planning to hire more than 1,000 frontline roles in its wealth management business in Asia as it further pivots to the region. Photo: Sam Tsang

HSBC, the biggest of Hong Kong’s three currency-issuing lenders, is on track to hire more than 1,000 frontline roles in its wealth management business in Asia by the end of this year to focus on rising affluence in the region with the most billionaires on earth.

The London-based banking group said in February that it planned to invest US$3.5 billion and hire more than 5,000 people in its wealth operations over the next five years. That is part of a US$6 billion investment in Asia as it further pivots to where it generates the bulk of its revenue.

“Our US$3.5 billion investments are under way, enabling us to deliver a robust start in Asia this year,” Greg Hingston, regional head of wealth and personal banking business, said. “We are seeing increased trading and investment activity from new and experienced investors on mobile and, with our relationship managers and wealth specialists, for more sophisticated needs.”

In the first quarter, Asia accounted for two-thirds of HSBC’s adjusted profit before tax in the wealth and personal banking business, or US$1.2 billion, he added. Revenue in the Asian wealth business rose 57 per cent in the first three months of the year and wealth balances in the region increased by 18 per cent.

Net new money in its private banking business in Asia increased by 89 per cent to US$6.6 billion in the quarter, while its regional asset management operations attracted US$3.3 billion, about 29 per cent of its global inflows in that business.

HSBC’s overall net profit more than doubled to US$3.9 billion in the first quarter as it benefited from the recovering global economy, allowing it to shrink its reserves for soured loans. An extended period of historically low interest rates has pushed HSBC and its rivals to place greater emphasis on fee-generating products and rising wealth to shore up earnings.

Asia had more dollar billionaires in 2020 than the rest of the world combined, according to a Hurun Report published in March. One in every two newly minted billionaires were in China as they surpassed those in the US in number. Hong Kong’s multimillionaire population also hit the highest ever despite a recession, a Citigroup study showed last month.

HSBC said in April that it would give family offices in Hong Kong and in Singapore greater access to its investment bankers in Asia as part of its enhanced wealth strategy, including offering institutional market access, prime services and private deals.

It also set up a new onshore private banking business in Thailand in the first quarter and unveiled a dedicated independent asset managers’ desk in Singapore to meet the needs of family offices and independent wealth advisers.

“With our established strengths in commercial, corporate and investment banking, and in-house insurance, asset management and markets, we’re able to bring the full extent of HSBC’s expertise and international connectivity to serve across the full spectrum of wealth management needs,” Hingston said.

HSBC and other lenders also are focusing on the potential of growth in the Greater Bay Area, adding staff and greater tie-ups with local lenders in hopes of selling more wealth products to mainland customers as China further opens up its financial services sector.

DBS, Singapore’s biggest bank and a Hong Kong rival to HSBC, said in April it planned to buy a 13 per cent stake in Shenzhen Rural Commercial Bank Corp and was opening to increasing its stake in the future.

Standard Chartered said in March it wants to triple its income from the bay area over the next five years and plans to increase its headcount in the mainland Chinese cities in the zone from 1,400 to 2,500 by 2023.

Citigroup said in March it plans to hire up to 1,700 people across its businesses in Hong Kong as it seeks to tap increasing capital flows between the city and mainland China and target rising wealth in the bay area.

This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (www.scmp.com), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.

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