ABN AMRO has hired eight new private bankers, six of them from HSBC, reinforcing a trend which is gaining momentum for banks to expand their wealth management practice by poaching entire teams.

A spokesperson for the Dutch bank confirmed yesterday that its private banking division added eight bankers, taking its total strength to 160. This represents a 50% increase from this time last year. ABN AMRO is hiring to keep pace with the growth in assets under management; between 2005 and now, the bank has increased AUM from $10 billion to around $20 billion.

The six new bankers from HSBC have come from Taiwan. The other two have come from Taishin and Blackrock. All eight hires are at assistant vice president level and currently based in Taiwan. ABN will relocate all of them to Hong Kong where they will service clients in both Taiwan and in mainland China.

The new hires will report to Gloria Sun. To reflect the growing importance of Taiwan, Sun has been promoted to market manager.

ABNÆs enhanced focus on Taiwan and China is not surprising. The Merrill Lynch Cap Gemini World Wealth Report 2007 found that the populations of high-net-worth individuals in Singapore, Indonesia and Taiwan registered double-digit growth while ChinaÆs grew at around 8% in 2006.

"China and Taiwan are important markets for ABN AMRO Private Banking as these countries are forecast to grow private wealth at a compounded annual growth rate of more than 10% over the next few years," says Hans Diederen, ABNÆs regional head of private banking for North Asia.

The timing of the latest hires is interesting because bonuses are around the corner and presumably ABN will have to compensate the hires for the bonuses they will have foregone.

Private banks have been using the strategy of poaching entire teams to fuel their private banking business. In April, Deutsche Bank poached 18 private bankers from Citi to join its Singapore wealth management team. That same month, ABN itself increased its private banking team at the expense of Societe Generale.