Macquarie Wealth plans to hire in Asia

SINGAPORE Mon Oct 13, 2008 5:20am EDT

A man walks on a pedestrian bridge in front of the Macquarie bank tower in Central Sydney September 18, 2008. REUTERS/Daniel Munoz

A man walks on a pedestrian bridge in front of the Macquarie bank tower in Central Sydney September 18, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Daniel Munoz

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Australia's Macquarie Group (MQG.AX) said on Monday its recently set-up Asian private banking unit will focus only on the very rich and will hire another 30-35 client advisers in the next three to five years.

The unit, which now has five client or investment advisers in Singapore, plans to hire three more advisers by next March and another eight people the following year, said the head of Macquarie Private Wealth Asia Joseph Poon.

"We would want 35-40 client advisers to cover Asia," he said at the Reuters Wealth Management Summit in Singapore.

Each adviser will deal with 20-25 clients and help manage about $1 billion to $1.5 billion in clients' money.

"We intend to bring our back office (and) mid-office operation from Australia business into Singapore because it is make sense from a cost-scale perspective," he added, without elaborating.

Macquarie, Australia's largest investment bank, set up a Singapore-based Asian wealth management unit in March this year to complement its existing private banking operations in Australia.

The Singapore unit will focus only on ultra-high-net-worth individuals in Asia with assets of more than $30 million, unlike the Australian operations which sets a minimum assets size of A$5 million, said Poon.

Wealth management had been one of the most profitable bank segments prior to the current financial crisis, prompting non-traditional players to expand into this sector over the past few years.

But the market turmoil is turning into a serious stress test for private banks as clients demand higher returns for the fees they pay for having their wealth looked after.

STRATEGY

Poon, who was formerly head of South Asia operations at JPMorgan Chase's (JPM.N) private banking unit, said Macquarie will focus on providing advisory services to rich Asian businessmen with an emphasis on wealth protection rather than growth.

"The clients who come to us in the ultra-high-net-worth space are already rich, they don't need to double their money," he said.

"Those clients are already taking a lot of risks in their (own) business... and don't need to have a midnight call or margin call. They have enough to worry about."

Poon said Macquarie has advised its Asian private wealth clients, who are sitting on more cash than usual, to slowly buy quality assets as prices have plunged in recent months and valuations were attractive.

"People can only call perfect timing after the fact and not before the fact," and clients should focus on investing in the business rather than in the stock price, he added.

(Editing by Jean Yoon & Kim Coghill)

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