Julius Baer chief sees Asia cornering a third of business

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Swiss bank Julius Baer group CEO Boris Collardi gestures during the annual press conference in Zurich on February 3, 2014 in Zurich. -- AFP

JULIUS BAER Group Ltd., Switzerland’s third-largest publicly traded private bank, sees Asia accounting for about a third of its business in the next five years as the firm adds staff to tap into rising affluence in the region.

The Zurich-based bank’s hiring spree from last year is paying off in a “very big way,” Chief Executive Officer Boris Collardi said Thursday in a Bloomberg Television interview in Singapore. Asia currently accounts for about 20% to 25% of its business, he said.

The firm is among European private banks that have sought to boost their Asian operations to profit from growing individual wealth. In an interview a year ago, Collardi said Asia may overtake Europe as Julius Baer’s biggest revenue-generating region in five years.

Asian inflows helped the bank  boost net new money in the first six months by 6% on an annualized basis, in what Collardi has described as the firm’s “best half-year ever.” In July, the 43-year-old CEO said Julius Baer will continue to recruit in Asia and may add more hubs there.The bank’s cost-income ratio is higher in Asia — in the high 70s — but this isn’t a problem because revenue is rising, Collardi said in Singapore.

“It’s not something that is bothering us because revenue momentum is the most important thing and Asia has had record revenues in the first half,” he said.

Asian Private Banker ranked Julius Baer as the fifth-largest private bank in Asia with $82.4 billion in assets under management and 380 relationship managers at the end of 2016. Regional competitors DBS Group Holdings Ltd. and Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp., which have expanded via acquisitions, are close behind in sixth and seventh, respectively, according to Asian Private Banker.

Julius Baer’s Asian AUM is on track to reach $100 billion by 2020, Collardi said Thursday in a separate interview with Bloomberg News. Organic growth is such that the firm doesn’t need to make acquisitions to achieve that target, he said, adding that he hired more than 100 bankers in the region last year.

The firm had hired Thomas Wu, a former chief financial officer at Chinese wealth manager Noah Holdings Ltd., to advise on corporate development and expansion plans, Collardi said. Wu, who starts Monday, will focus initially on China, he said.

“Asia is doing great,” Collardi said. “We don’t need acquisitions.” — Bloomberg