Julius Baer steps up hiring in S'pore, HK

Mr Boris Collardi, chief executive officer of Julius Baer Group, says Asia "could be the biggest region" for the group in the next five years.
Mr Boris Collardi, chief executive officer of Julius Baer Group, says Asia "could be the biggest region" for the group in the next five years.

Julius Baer Group said Asia may overtake Europe as its biggest revenue-generating region, as the Swiss wealth manager steps up hiring in Singapore and Hong Kong.

"In the next five years, Asia could be the biggest region for us if we grow at double-digit" rates, chief executive officer Boris Collardi said on Wednesday. More than half of about 200 new bankers that Julius Baer plans to hire this year will be based in Asia, he added.

Asia contributed about 532 million Swiss francs (S$743.9 million) of Julius Baer's operating income in 2015, small compared with the 2.2 billion Swiss francs from Switzerland and the rest of Europe. But the share of revenue generated in Asia has been growing fast, doubling to about 20 per cent of the total last year from about 10 per cent in 2011.

Julius Baer is the fifth-largest private bank in Asia by assets under management, according to Asian Private Banker's 2015 ranking. It is the third largest in Switzerland, after UBS Group and Credit Suisse Group.

Like UBS and Credit Suisse, Julius Baer has been expanding in Asia, lured by the growing number of rich people. Private wealth in the Asia-Pacific region surpassed that of North America for the first time in 2015.

"In general, we are following where the market is going. And Asia is our second home," Mr Collardi said, noting that the bank has been hiring in Hong Kong and Singapore "in a big way".

Shares of Julius Baer fell 0.2 per cent to 41.04 Swiss francs in Zurich on Wednesday. The stock has declined 16 per cent this year.

Mr Collardi does not rule out the idea of further acquisitions, but, for the moment, his bank is focused on expansion through hiring.

Julius Baer last year completed the acquisition of the Merrill Lynch wealth management business outside the United States.

The acquisition of other private banks can either be expensive, or pose substantial risks at a time of stricter regulation, Mr Collardi said.

He noted the case of BSI, a Swiss private bank which this year agreed to be taken over by EFG international. BSI was subsequently fined by regulators in Switzerland and Singapore for its ties to 1Malaysia Development Berhad, the development fund at the centre of global probes into alleged money laundering. 1MDB denies any wrongdoing.

Singapore withdrew BSI's banking licence for breaches, including a failure to conduct due diligence on high-risk accounts, and to monitor suspicious customer transactions.

Julius Baer is investing heavily in technology, and has chosen Singapore as the base for a new platform that will support its global operations. The bank will spend "several hundred millions" of Swiss francs over the next five years on technology, Mr Collardi said.

BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 23, 2016, with the headline 'Julius Baer steps up hiring in S'pore, HK'. Print Edition | Subscribe