RBS Coutts has Singapore staff exodus

(Corrects staff being hired in 5 years to 200, not doubling; corrects spelling to Calamander from Calamandar)

SINGAPORE/LONDON (Reuters) - More than a quarter of the staff at the Singapore office of private bank RBS Coutts have quit in a mass resignation and some, sources said, could be joining Swiss rival BSI.

The defections could be a sign that job-hopping is beginning to pick up in Asia’s competitive wealth management market, which is recovering from last year’s market meltdown.

RBS Coutts, part of Royal Bank of Scotland Group RBS.L (RBS), said on Tuesday "a little over 70 people" had resigned from the bank.

The departures came a few months after Hanspeter Brunner, former co-CEO of RBS Coutts, and Raj Sriram, head of its South Asia unit, decided to leave the wealth manager, sources said.

Both executives are joining BSI and some staff will join them, the sources told Reuters. The sources did not want to be identified because the hirings at BSI were not public. BSI was not available for comment.

RBS was rescued by the government last year and its bonus payments to staff have been under scrutiny.

An RBS Coutts spokesman in Singapore said the staff who left were about 28 percent of the Singapore staff and 15 percent of the wealth manager’s Asia staff. He did not say why the staff left.

The spokesman said the bank plans to hire 200 more staff in Asia over the next five years and aims to double its assets in the same period. Currently it has a staff of 500.

The bank was managing 17 billion Swiss francs (10.5 billion pounds) in Asia, he said. UBS UBSN.VX and Citigroup C.N are ranked as the top two players in Asia.

Lugano-based BSI is a unit of Italy's insurance group Generali GASI.MI.

BSI’s Singapore chief executive Nicola Battalora told Reuters in an interview in May that BSI was looking to expand in Asia and hire bankers.

One industry expert said the exodus from RBS Coutts reflected the state of the private banking industry in Asia.

“Sadly the Asian private bank market remains a market that depends on raiding existing mature business and mature relationship managers from other banks,” said Roman Scott, managing director of private equity firm Calamander Capital in Singapore.

“There is continued dire shortage of experienced, mature RMs (relationship managers).”

Reporting by Saeed Azhar in Singapore and Christopher Johnson in London; Additional reporting by Kevin Lim in Singapore; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman