Julius Baer is on a drive to poach more private bankers from rival firms in Asia – and Credit Suisse is among its prime hunting grounds.
The bank has hired 45 new relationship managers (RMs) in Asia since January, taking total front-office headcount to about 315. Boris Collardi, Julius Baer’s CEO, says 2016 will prove a record year for RM recruitment in Asia.
It may already be – in 2015 and 2014 Julius Baer’s RM staffing levels rose by just 10 and 21 people respectively, according to figures from Asian Private Banker. While the number jumped by 129 in 2013, this was largely due to the acquisition of Merrill Lynch’s wealth unit in Asia during the previous year.
Headhunters in Asia confirm that Julius Baer is ramping up its recruitment this year.
“In Hong Kong it’s hiring traditional Greater China coverage bankers, and in Singapore it’s hiring people for Southeast Asia and for the non-resident Indian desk,” says former Merrill Lynch private banker Rahul Sen, now head of wealth management at search firm The Omerta Group in Singapore.
“It’s also brought over a team from UBS for international coverage – expat clients or clients based in Europe,” adds Sen.
The new hires this year already include a comparatively high proportion of Credit Suisse RMs, largely because Julius Baer has a host of former Credit Suisse people among its senior ranks.
These include not only Collardi himself, but also Jimmy Lee, the former group head of Hong Kong at Credit Suisse, who joined Julius Baer in January as head of Asia Pacific.
Meanwhile, Torsten Linke, Credit Suisse’s former Indonesia market leader, was appointed Julius Baer’s head of private banking for Southeast Asia in January, and three months later David Shick, previously market leader for China and Taiwan at Credit Suisse, joined Julius Baer as head of private banking for Greater China.
“With all these senior CS people coming on board in Asia recently, JB is looking to leverage these connections by targeting CS relationship managers as part of its hiring drive,” says a headhunter with knowledge of the firm who asked not to be named.
Credit Suisse is itself in the middle of an even larger hiring spree in Asian wealth management. Despite this, and wider talent shortages afflicting the sector, Julius Baer has been able to attract RMs partly because it can typically offer them more market flexibility than rivals like UBS and Credit Suisse, says Sen from The Omerta Group.
“The larger Swiss banks are strict, you must have the vast majority of your clients in a single market. But Julius Baer often allows a higher percentage of clients from outside your core market,” says Sen.
“This can be a big advantage to RMs because business-owning private clients in Asia are increasingly expanding across the region,” he add. “Another other advantage is that while UBS and CS usually offer you a bonus structure for your first one or two years, Julius Baer sets it in perpetuity.”
And while Julius Baer employs about 300 and 800 fewer RMs in Asia than Credit Suisse and UBS respectively, it is no longer considered a boutique player – only four other firms manage more assets in the region.
“JB is well known in Asia now – in the past even some RMs here hadn’t heard of it,” says Liu San Li, an ex-Coutts banker, now head of private wealth management at I Search Worldwide in Singapore. “Especially after its acquisition of Merrill Lynch Private Bank in 2012, awareness of its brand has grown substantially, making it easier to hire people.”
RMs whose clients demand investment banking and capital markets services, however, are much less inclined to join Julius Baer. “It’s got comprehensive private banking products,” says Liu. “But it lacks corporate banking and investment banking products – clients who need these would probably choose Credit Suisse or UBS.”
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