More than a quarter of the staff at the Singapore office of private bank RBS Coutts have quit in a mass resignation and some are joining Swiss rival BSI.

The defections could be a sign that job-hopping is beginning to pick up in Asia's competitive wealth-management market, which is recovering from last year's market meltdown.

RBS Coutts, part of Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc (RBS), said on Tuesday a little over 70 people had resigned from the bank.

The departures come a few months after Hanspeter Brunner, former co-CEO of RBS Coutts, and Raj Sriram, head of its South Asia unit, left the wealth manager, sources said.

Both executives are joining BSI and some staff will join them, the sources told Reuters. The sources did not want to be identified because the hirings at BSI were not public. BSI was not available for comment.

Lugano-based BSI, a unit of Italy's insurance group Generali , currently has around 50 people in its Singapore branch and a smaller number in Hong Kong where it has representative office status, a source said.

BSI's Singapore chief executive Nicola Battalora told Reuters in an interview in May that BSI was looking to expand in Asia and hire bankers.

Factors contributing to the exodus of RBS Coutts employees include moves by parent RBS to defer staff bonuses as well as concerns about asset sales by RBS in Asia.

It's about the money. It's always about the money in private banking, the source said.

RBS was rescued by the British government last year and its bonus payments to staff have been under scrutiny.

An RBS Coutts spokesman in Singapore said the staff who left were about 28 percent of the Singapore staff and 15 percent of the wealth manager's Asia staff. He did not say why the staff left.


The RBS Coutts spokesman said the bank plans to hire 200 more staff in Asia over the next five years and aims to double its assets in the same period. Currently it has a staff of 500 and manages 17 billion Swiss francs ($16.6 billion) in Asia.

UBS and Citigroup are ranked as the top two players in Asia.

Private banks and boutique firms are vying to tap the growth of millionaires in Asia. High net-worth individuals' wealth in Asia-Pacific is seen climbing 8.8 percent a year for the next 10 years, according to Merrill Lynch/Capgemini.

One industry expert said the exodus from RBS Coutts reflected the state of the private banking industry in Asia.

Sadly the Asian private bank market remains a market that depends on raiding existing mature business and mature relationship managers from other banks, said Roman Scott, managing director of private equity firm Calamander Capital in Singapore.

There is continued dire shortage of experienced, mature RMs (relationship managers).

($1=1.026 Swiss Franc)

(Additional reporting by Kevin Lim in SINGAPORE and Christopher Johnson in LONDON; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)