FT: Third of staff at RBS Coutts Singapore quit over bonuses


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Third of staff at RBS Coutts Singapore quit

By Sundeep Tucker in Hong Kong
Financial Times
Published: October 12 2009 23:21

RBS Coutts, the international arm of the UK private bank, is
scrambling to rebuild its flagship Singapore office after the mass
resignation of one-third of its staff in the city-state.

The surprise departures include about 20 key managers, as well as 50
or so support staff, some of whom built up lucrative private banking
business with rich Indians and Indonesians.

A lack of annual bonus prospects is believed to be a factor behind
some of the resignations at the division, owned by Royal Bank of
Scotland, which was rescued by the UK government last year.

Senior moves in the private banking industry are sensitive, due to the
possibility of colleagues following departing employees to other
institutions and taking clients with them. The destinations of the 70-
odd staff remain unknown.

The Singapore and Hong Kong offices employ the bulk of the group’s 510
staff in Asia, a region which accounts for about SFr17bn ($16.6bn) –
or a quarter – of RBS Coutts’ funds under management.

RBS Coutts, which confirmed the resignations, said they represented
less than 15 per cent of regional headcount. “Staff volatility in the
private banking industry is not unusual, especially in Asia,” it
said.

While large private banking teams routinely change employers,
especially in Asia, industry participants said it was rare for a bank
to lose so many staff at the same time.

RBS Coutts said that, although it was ultimately owned by the UK
government, it could offer sufficiently attractive pay packages to
attract staff. “We expect our compensation packages to be market
competitive,” it said.

Rivals are aggressively hiring established private bankers with track
records in Asia to expand operations, keen to manage a slice of the
wealth being created in the region. Singapore is the centre of the
group’s offshore private banking activity in fast-growing areas such
as south-east Asia and India.

The Financial Times reported last week that industry veteran Hanspeter
Brunner had quit as head of RBS Coutts to join BSI, a Swiss private
bank owned by Generali, the Italian insurance group.

One of Mr Brunner’s senior colleagues, Raj Sriram, who led a close-
knit team that built up RBS Coutts’ business with wealthy non-resident
Indians, is among the departures. Mr Brunner was replaced by Nick
Pollard, a long-serving executive of Coutts.

RBS Coutts insisted the departures would not have an impact on clients
“who have continued to support us by remaining with us”. The bank
added: “Clients know that we have a large team of highly experienced
and committed senior bankers who continue to provide the same
personalised attention.”

The spokesman said RBS remained in “growth mode” in Asia and planned
to replace those who have left and add a further 200 staff to regional
headcount by 2015.

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/46db8d28-b74f-11de-9812-00144feab49a.html
 
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