Julius Baer said to hire BSI private bankers in Singapore

The office of Swiss private bank BSI at Suntec City. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE (BLOOMBERG) - Swiss private bank Julius Baer Group is pushing ahead with a recruitment drive in Asia, hiring close to 20 Singapore-based bankers from BSI, the wealth manager caught up in the scandal surrounding 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), according to a person familiar with the matter.

The BSI bankers joining Julius Baer specialise in managing the wealth of non-resident Indians, the person said, asking not to be identified because the matter is confidential. The Monetary Authority of Singapore said in May it is withdrawing BSI's local license following an investigation into its dealings with 1MDB, the Malaysian fund which is at the centre of global probes into alleged corruption and money laundering.

A representative from Julius Baer in Hong Kong declined to comment, as did Ms Daniela Haesler, a spokesman for EFG International in Zurich, the private bank which recently acquired BSI. 1MDB has consistently denied wrongdoing.

Like fellow Swiss banks UBS Group and Credit Suisse Group, Julius Baer has stepped up its hiring of wealth managers in Asia, lured by the growing number of wealthy people in the region. More than half of about 200 new bankers being added this year will be based in Asia, Julius Baer chief executive officer Boris Collardi said in a September interview.

Among the other hires this year are Mr Bhaskar Laxminarayan, who joined in September as Julius Baer's Singapore-based Asia chief investment officer from Pictet Wealth Management, and Ms Angela Bow, who joined in May from Credit Suisse as head of emerging Asia.

The bankers joining from BSI were subjected to the usual compliance checks before they started work with Julius Baer, according to the person familiar with the matter. Eight are relationship managers and the rest are support staff, the person added.

EFG said earlier this month it had finalised the purchase of BSI from Brazil's BTG Pactual SA for a preliminary price of 1.06 billion Swiss francs (S$1.49 billion), down from the 1.33 billion francs it expected to pay when the deal was announced in February.

EFG said the lower value included a discount to reflect the client money outflows recorded by BSI. Client withdrawals were "particularly influenced by the announcements relating to the Malaysia matter in May", EFG said in a statement.

Former BSI banker Yak Yew Chee was found guilty in a Singapore court earlier this month of four charges related to 1MDB, including forging documents and failing to disclose suspicious transactions. A former colleague of Yak's, Yeo Jiawei, is currently on trial for obstructing justice by attempting to tamper with witnesses in the 1MDB probe.

Julius Baer has also hired four relationship managers specialised in non-resident Indians from BSI in Hong Kong, the person said.

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