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Credit Suisse still hiring in S’pore ahead of UBS takeover

The bank has been taking on relationship managers, senior bankers, investment consultants and portfolio managers in Singapore. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE – Swiss lender Credit Suisse is still hiring in the weeks leading up to the close of its takeover by long-time rival UBS, in a likely bid to alleviate an ongoing exodus of talent.

The Straits Times understands the bank has been taking on relationship managers, senior bankers, investment consultants and portfolio managers in Singapore, and will continue to recruit talent ahead of the deal’s expected close in May.

LinkedIn job postings on Monday also showed 15 openings in areas such as software development, payroll, human resources and management of trusts.

More than 1,000 people had applied for the openings on LinkedIn by Monday evening, but the bulk of the applications were for just a few roles, such as in software development and human resources.

This development comes even though the global bank said in October 2022 that it would cut 9,000 jobs. There is also uncertainty over whether Credit Suisse staff will have a place in the combined entity, although Bloomberg reported that the bank is handing out retention bonuses to those whom UBS sees as critical.

Credit Suisse employs roughly 3,500 people in Singapore, according to market sources. It is unclear how many staff members have left in recent months. According to Bloomberg, the global bank lost 280 relationship managers in its key wealth unit over the 12 months through March.

Mr Christopher Poh, wealth management lead at executive search firm Ethos BeathChapman (EBC), said Credit Suisse is having a tough time attracting top talent. However, there are also opportunistic candidates open to exploring a career with the bank as it restructures and focuses on core areas like wealth management.

Its hiring mostly involves replacements rather than expansion, he said, adding: “Given the exodus of bankers and product specialists, Credit Suisse has to hire replacements for core roles within the bank for it to continue functioning.”

A bank spokesman told ST that its wealth management division will continue to serve clients until the close of the UBS transaction, and it does not expect any disruption to client services.

The reputation of Credit Suisse, Switzerland’s second-largest bank, has taken a hit from a string of scandals and losses over the years, starting from around 2020.

It seemed to face its final chapter on March 19 when UBS agreed to buy it for three billion Swiss francs (S$4.5 billion) in stock, as part of a marriage backed by Swiss authorities to prevent further banking turmoil following a fresh slump in Credit Suisse shares.

Mr Khairul Anwar, EBC’s senior consultant for risk and compliance, noted there have been ongoing departures from Credit Suisse since its instability emerged and those remaining were largely “core staff” by the time the merger was announced.

The deal’s impact on Credit Suisse’s workforce might take some time to be felt.

Ms Lim Chai Leng, general manager of banking and financial services at recruitment firm Randstad Singapore, said there is usually a preliminary due diligence period that lasts around nine to 12 months before the actual merger and restructuring proceedings begin.

“There may undoubtedly be some attrition during (the transition) as employees look to secure better opportunities elsewhere,” she said, adding that the bank will likely prioritise retaining key personnel in critical roles.

Meanwhile, other lenders might benefit from the outflow of Credit Suisse staff and clients’ assets as they look to grow their businesses.

Mr Poh said EBC has seen a spike in private wealth hiring over the past month across global and local private banks while his colleague, Mr Khairul, said local banks have stepped up recruitment in risk and compliance.

However, the market might not be able to fully absorb outgoing Credit Suisse staff, said an industry source who declined to be named.

Some private banks are more selective of bankers who can bring in clients with discretionary portfolios, while a deal drought has weighed on investment banking, said the source.

Financial institutions are now more conservative in their hiring amid global economic uncertainty, said Randstad’s Ms Lim, adding that most employers are, nonetheless, still seeking suitable talent as needed.

A few global private banks in Singapore declined to comment, while other players told ST that their hiring efforts are holding steady. 

Mr Dean Tong, UOB’s head of group human resources, said: “While we have not particularly ramped up our hiring in the last month, we are in continuous conversation with talents across different industries... with a particular focus in areas such as sales and service including relationship managers, compliance and technology.”

UOB doubled monetary rewards for its staff until the end of June when they refer potential candidates who are successfully hired for certain private banking client adviser roles, according to an internal e-mail seen by ST in March.

An HSBC Singapore spokesman said: “(We continue) to be active in the hiring market, aligned with our plans to build out Singapore as an international wealth and regional wholesale banking hub.”

Standard Chartered said it is complementing its workforce with the “right external hires” in growth areas such as sustainable finance and technology.

DBS said it continues to hire for replacement where needed, likely across a range of roles including private bankers and relationship managers.

Ms Jacinta Low, OCBC Bank’s senior vice-president for group human resources, said the bank tries to fill available positions by first searching its existing talent pool before recruiting externally.