The Singapore office of RBS Coutts said yesterday that "a little more than 70 people" had resigned from the private bank, which is part of the Royal Bank of Scotland group. Of that total, approximately 20 were bankers, said a spokeswoman. The resignations have come over the course of three-to-four weeks.
"The Asian private banking market is very volatile," said Elena Chong, head of marketing and communications for Asia at RBS Coutts, acknowledging that there has been an increase in bankers hopping from one firm to another. "Naturally, competitors are going to turn to a pool of experienced staff like we have at RBS."
Sources speculate that many of the bankers may be going to BSI, given that Hanspeter Brunner, former co-CEO of RBS Coutts, and Raj Sriram, head of its South Asia unit, recently left the firm to join BSI -- a Swiss private bank owned by Italian insurance group Generali. After Brunner left, the firm announced that Asian private banking division of RBS Coutts would be managed by Nick Pollard.
While there is obvious market speculation that the departures are the result of a murky outlook for bonuses -- at the end of last year RBS was bailed out by the UK government which is now scrutinising pay and bonuses to staff -- RBS countered that its bonuses are in line with market practices.
The bank is "actively recruiting" said Chong, noting that during the past fortnight RBS Coutts has advertised it is hiring in both Singapore and Hong Kong and has received more than 700 applications. Furthermore, the bank plans to hire 200 more staff in Asia during the next five years and aims to double its assets in the same period. Currently, it has a staff of 500 in Asia, a region which accounts for about $16.6 billion, or one-quarter, of RBS Coutts's funds under management.