RBS Coutts to ramp up hires after exodus

RBS COUTTS may look to speed up its hiring plans in Asia after 70 staff staged a co-ordinated mass exodus from the private bank.<br /><br />The group of staff at the Singapore office of Royal Bank of Scotland&rsquo;s private bank left simultaneously and many are now expected to join Swiss rival BSI.<br /><br />The departures come just a few months after the exit of the unit&rsquo;s former co-chief executive Hanspeter Brunner and head of its South Asia unit Raj Sriram, both of whom are now to join BSI.<br /><br />A spokesman for the bank yesterday blamed the departures on the volatility of the jobs market in private banking.<br /><br />She said RBS Coutts was still planning to hire 200 new staff over the next five years, but conceded that the bank would be &ldquo;opportunistic&rdquo; about taking on even more talent in the wake of the recent departures.<br /><br />She dismissed suggestions that meagre bonus payouts were a motivation for the exodus saying that the bank had &ldquo;made it clear that we&rsquo;re paying market-compatible packages&rdquo;.<br /><br />&ldquo;If that pay is an issue, we&rsquo;re not aware of it,&rdquo; she added.<br /><br />The spokesman would not confirm whether staff were set to join BSI, but admitted that &ldquo;new players always look to names like us for sourcing talent&rdquo;.<br /><br />RBS Coutts lost about 28 per cent of its Singapore headcount and 15 per cent of its Asia staff in the co-ordinated resignation, but said the walkout would not disrupt its plans to double its assets over the next five years.<br /><br />The bank manages around Sfr17bn (&pound;10.4bn) in assets, but lags behind rivals such as Citigroup and UBS, which dominate wealth management in the region.<br /><br />The fight for staff comes as Singapore&rsquo;s importance as an international wealth management centre rises and top banks seek to secure a presence there.<br /><br />Increased interest in Asian private banking has seen a tug-of-war develop for private banking assets put up for sale by Dutch bank ING, which is hoping to use the proceeds of any deal to repay state aid.<br /><br />HSBC is understood to be leading the race for the units, but faces competition from Singaporean bank OCBC.