After reshuffling senior management and building out its new products and services team in Asia earlier this year, UK-based Coutts has seen several departures in the region in the past two months. But the private bank is seeking to strengthen its compliance and risk functions.
The latest addition to the products and services team is Johnny Heng, who is set to join this week as head of active advisory for Asia. He arrives from Credit Suisse, where he was a managing director looking after investment consulting for family offices and ultra-high-net-worth individuals. Heng had been with the Swiss bank since October 2010.
He reports to Ken Sue, who joined in mid-May from HSBC to run the regional products and services unit, and whose hire followed that of several others to the same division in April. Gary Dugan also arrived this month as chief investment officer for Asia and the Middle East, based in Singapore.
However, sources at recruitment firms say several bankers have exited Coutts in the past couple of months – largely from Singapore, including a number from the Southeast Asia and India teams.
One senior recent departure was Bruno Merlino, leader of the Indonesia team in Singapore, who follows former boss Manfred Liechti out the door. The latter left in April after Ranjit Khanna was promoted to an expanded role as head of South Asia, incorporating Liechti’s responsibilities.
But it is thought not relationship managers directly responsible for clients who have left.
“I don’t see a walkout of RMs with big books of assets,” says one headhunter. “It’s more people with smaller books or whose teams are under pressure [who’ve been cut].” He cites Merlino as an example of an executive who didn’t have direct clients.
Richard Lewis, a vice-president on the expatriate-coverage team, has also gone, with one recruiter saying his division has been under some pressure. There have also been some resignations from the non-resident Indian team, say sources.
A Coutts spokeswoman declined to comment on individual names, but said: “We can confirm that, as a result of natural attrition and business performance, a small number of private bankers have left the business.”
Meanwhile, it is believed that Coutts will soon add to its compliance and risk management staff following the March arrival of Errol D’Souza as Asia chief risk officer from UBS Wealth Management. Based in Singapore, D’Souza heads a 40-strong team across Singapore, Hong Kong and India.
The private bank is working on building up in risk and compliance, says one recruiter, who suggests it may be looking to add as many as eight to 10 people.
The Coutts spokeswoman said the bank could not comment on potential hires as it is in a quiet period, because parent RBS will announce results in the next few weeks.