DBS seeks new CIO at wealth division as Lim retires, sources say

DBS Group, Southeast Asia's largest bank, is looking for a new chief investment officer for its expanding wealth management division to replace Lim Say Boon, who is retiring after serving seven years, people familiar with the matter told CNBC.

The search comes amid the well-documented rise of the super-rich in Asia and associated demand for wealth management products. Still, Lim's successor faces multiple challenges, including fierce competition for clients, fee and margin pressure and tighter regulation.

:The DBS Group Holdings Ltd. logo is displayed atop the company's DBS Asia Hub building in Singapore, on Thursday, Feb. 9, 2012.
Munshi Ahmed | Bloomberg | Getty Images

"It may be competitive, but at least it is a growing segment of the market,' said CIMB economist Song Seng Wun. "DBS is looking to get more income from their wealth management team."

The wealth management business has doubled in the last five years and now accounts for almost 15 percent of DBS's top line income, Group CEO Piyush Gupta said earlier this month.

DBS is targeting 20 percent growth over the next few years. Its private bank is ranked fifth-largest in Asia by assets under management (AUM). The 2016 acquisition of the wealth management and retail banking business of ANZ added 23 billion Singapore dollars ($16.3 billion) in AUM to DBS's books.

Asked about Lim, DBS spokeswoman Edna Koh told CNBC the bank did not respond to rumors and "nothing is imminent."

"Succession is a consideration but Say Boon remains the CIO for the consumer banking group and wealth management at DBS Bank for the foreseeable future," she added in a follow-up statement.

A popular, urbane and well-respected figure in Asia's wealth management industry, Lim, 60, was appointed CIO for DBS's wealth management business in July 2010 and joined the Singapore bank from Standard Chartered.

"He's going to be hard to replace," one private banker said.

The bank is understood to have interviewed both local and international candidates for the role, but the recruitment process is believed to be taking longer than usual. "All I heard is it's a real struggle," said one banker who asked to remain anonymous. "They have also been reluctant to sign up head hunters so (it's) a bit chaotic."

As such, Lim has agreed to continue to work with DBS in an advisory capacity, or possibly a mentoring role, until a permanent successor is found, CNBC understands from conversations with private bankers.

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