Nick Pollard of RBS Coutts explains some of the new initiatives the firm is implementing in Asia to try to overcome the widespread problem of a shortage of experienced and qualified professionals in wealth management.
Date: Mar 2011
For example, the firm’s Asian business has started to participate in the Coutts graduate programme in the UK, with a couple of Hong Kong graduates already having joined this before planning to return to the Hong Kong office upon completion.
But as RBS Coutts grows in Asia, Pollard said it will start its own programme locally – given that such an injection of talent into the business, as well as the wider market, is a good thing.
The graduate programme
The graduate programme runs for two years, explained Pollard, and is designed to give graduates a wide range of experiences across the wealth management field. Plus, it also involves professional accreditation so that individuals get skills from both perspectives.
In general, it involves working with various private banking teams, at the moment in the UK, said Pollard, but adding that the Hong Kong graduates will also spend about three to four months locally.
All graduates focus on different client segments to understand their various and diverse needs, and they also spend time within the investment banking department to understand the wider capabilities of the group.
However, the programme is not an automatic passage into private banking, warned Pollard, explaining that graduates will fail the course if they are not good enough and do not pass the assessment.
This type of programme is needs-driven to an extent, he said, but it is also a good way to bring in new people, ideas and levels of energy into the business globally.
According to Pollard, part of the reason why most other institutions don’t pursue such home-grown initiatives is potentially because they are concerned they will end up providing a training resource for competitors, given that the market is so fluid.
As a result, investment in staff in Asia from a training and development perspective takes courage, said Pollard.
It is also vital, since part of the many reasons why people choose to remain at a particular organisation, he added.
Apart from the pay, which he said is a hygiene factor and essential to be competitive and attract talent, the psychological contract of being in a particular firm is key. For example, is it a good place to work? Do people get educated while working? Do they have access to good products and clients? And will the brand support them?
Pollard said these are the types of things the firm has been working on, and it now has the courage to say that it wants to invest for the much longer term – both by training its existing workforce and attracting new people.
Converting professionals to private bankers
RBS Coutts has also started to work on what it calls a conversion course – to bring people from parallel careers into private banking and give them the requisite skills to be successful. These might be people from backgrounds such as corporate finance, accounting, or law – or anything with professional relationships at its core.
When that course is ready, Pollard said it will make the bank more diverse in the kinds of skill-sets it has within its workforce.
Such a programme has to be bespoke to those individuals coming in to the bank, he said, given the diverse backgrounds and levels of experience of each person. And when fully in place, this will contain some basic building blocks, for example about product knowledge and relationship management skills, depending on their needs.
While this channel of talent won’t provide everything a client needs, said Pollard, since clients want to know how experienced their private bankers are, it is still important to have a diverse workforce. For instance, conversations with clients can be very wide-ranging, said Pollard, and having experience which might be broader than that of a typical private banker is a good thing for any organisation.