Julius Baer has made a senior technology strategy hire as its ongoing Asian expansion reaches beyond the front office. Avik Bera has joined Julius Baer in Singapore as an executive director, business transformation Asia, according to a spokesperson for the Swiss private bank. His focus is on digital products.
Bera's shift into an in-house role follows a 13-year stint at US tech consultancy giant Cognizant, where he worked in New York, Zurich and Singapore, latterly as a director in consulting. While at Cognizant, Bera was assigned to a project, implemented in July last year and based on the Temenos T24 software platform, to overhaul Julius Baer’s core banking systems in Asia.
Banks in Asia are increasingly hiring from vendor companies. Last month, for example, DBS attributed some of its recent headcount increase to “insourced” tech professionals (who previously worked on DBS projects at vendors but are now employed by the bank).
Bera has begun his Julius Baer career at a time of growth for the firm. Between 2015 and 2017, its headcount of Asia-based relationship managers shot up by 130 to reach 400 – the largest increase of any private bank not involved in an acquisition. Nearly a quarter of its staff are now based in Asia. And Julius Baer has pressed ahead with its front-office growth over the past year, making a string of senior hires in Singapore and Hong Kong, including taking on DBS banker Laurent Chevalley as an MD, and recruiting Winston Teo from Bank of Singapore as Southeast Asia team head.
Bera’s move highlights a specific area of high demand within the Singapore job market: private banking technology. More tech development and strategy jobs are opening up at private banks in Singapore as rich millennial clients demand round-the-clock investment advice and management via their smartphones, say recruiters.
As a rule, Julius Baer and other private banks in Asia aren’t recruiting for business-as-usual tech roles in Singapore. They want to hire senior business strategists like Bera, or developers to work on emerging-tech products. “Technologists are primarily using new tech such as machine learning, big data and AI to digitalise the wealth industry,” Shinjika Shukla, an associate director at recruiters Michael Page in Singapore, told us previously.
The tool UBS Advice, launched in 2017, uses a portfolio-monitoring system powered by AI to analyse individual client portfolios, for example. Technology costs at large private banks in Asia were up 15% year on year for the first nine months of 2018, according to consultancy Scorpio Partnership.
While many digital staff at banks might be casting an envious eye on the hip offices that their counterparts at tech companies enjoy, this is unlikely to be the case for Bera. Julius Baer’s new office in Singapore is in the S$5.1bn Marina One development, which opened last year and has been widely acclaimed as one of the most instagrammable places in Singapore thanks to its urban-oasis architecture, skybridges, and 160,00 plants.
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