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Morgan Stanley plans to hire dozens for Asia wealth expansion

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Morgan Stanley plans to add dozens of staff at its wealth business in Hong Kong and Singapore this year, signalling its confidence in the world's fastest-growing region when it comes to minting millionaires.

[SINGAPORE] Morgan Stanley plans to add dozens of staff at its wealth business in Hong Kong and Singapore this year, signalling its confidence in the world's fastest-growing region when it comes to minting millionaires.

The New York-based bank is looking to add 30 to 35 private bankers in the two cities this year, Asia-Pacific wealth head Vincent Chui said in an interview with Bloomberg Television in Hong Kong on Friday.

"Our continued expansion and growth will be actually a matter for us to accelerate in 2020," he said. The additional relationship managers "would perhaps translate into at least 50 or 60 more customer service, risk and product specialists".

Mr Chui spoke a day after Morgan Stanley reported record profit for 2019, helped in part by its wealth business, which makes up more than half of its revenue. The hiring plans contrast with job cuts at UBS Group AG, which began culling headcount in both Europe and Asia as new wealth co-head Iqbal Khan seeks to make his mark on the business.

Asked whether Morgan Stanley is open to acquisitions, Mr Chui said the firm "will look at all opportunities". "We want to expand this business at our own pace."

Morgan Stanley ranked fifth by client assets among private banks in Asia excluding China in 2018, according to Asian Private Banker.

Wealth creation particularly in second-tier Chinese cities and other parts of Asia continues "very, very strongly", Mr Chui said.

China, Asia's biggest economy, is expected to see the biggest annual growth among the world's largest private banking markets through 2023, Boston Consulting Group said in a report last year. The nation's wealth accounted for more than half of all assets in Asia, excluding Japan.

Mr Chui said rich clients in the region are growing more bullish. "Two words: risk on," he said.

While Mr Chui said Morgan Stanley's business hasn't been impacted by the Hong Kong protests, "clients are asking more questions about where and how to structure their wealth, whether it is Hong Kong, Singapore, US and Europe". "I think in the ultra high net worth segment, there are plenty of choices."

BLOOMBERG