HONG KONG, May 12 (Reuters) - Credit Suisse, which saw a pickup in inflows of net new money into its Asia Pacific private banking unit last quarter, plans to hire more staff to build on that momentum in a market buffeted by slowing economies and cut-throat competition.
Under new Chief Executive Tidjane Thiam, the bank has made Asia its priority region for growth. Overall, it is still struggling and on Tuesday the bank posted its worst start to a year since the financial crisis, with a second consecutive quarterly loss, amid a major restructuring.
In the Asia Pacific region, however, Credit Suisse's net new assets for private banking rose to 4.3 billion Swiss francs ($4.4 billion) in the first quarter, according to a company presentation on its website.
Net new assets attracted by Switzerland's second biggest bank had dropped to 3 billion Swiss francs in the December quarter from 6.6 billion in April-June 2015.
As a result of the surge in net new assets, revenue from its private banking business in Asia Pacific grew to 300 million Swiss francs in the March quarter, up 1 percent from a year ago, the presentation showed.
The bank will add more relationship managers in the region for its private banking business, after hiring 40 in the March quarter that took the tally to 630 by end-March, up from 530 a year ago, Asia Pacific Chief Executive Helman Sitohang said.
Credit Suisse aims to raise that number to 800 by 2018, and Sitohang told reporters on Thursday the bank was on target to achieve that, as part of its strategy to tap more wealthy clients in the region.
"We still have lot of opportunities within the firm and within the region despite challenging markets," he said.
Credit Suisse, however, continues to lag in the region behind its larger Swiss rival UBS, which posted growth of about 7 percent in net new wealth management assets in the first quarter.
Credit Suisse's total wealth management assets in the region stood at 150 billion Swiss francs at the end of the March quarter, roughly half those of UBS, which shifted its focus to the region earlier and has built a strong presence in China.
($1 = 0.9706 Swiss francs) (Reporting by Sumeet Chatterjee; Editing by Denny Thomas and Adrian Croft)