Julius Baer, one of the most aggressive recruiters within Asian private banking, has appointed a team head of intermediaries for Southeast Asia as it looks to win more business from external asset managers. Vianne Choo, one of a string of new senior recruits at the Swiss bank, has joined at executive director level, based in Singapore. She spent the previous four years as a senior financial products advisor at Vontobel and prior to that was at Credit Suisse for 13 years, latterly working in structured products.
Choo’s intermediaries desk, like those at other private banks, caters to the needs of external asset managers (EAM), a rapidly expanding sector in Asia that includes family offices and other firms making investments into banks on behalf of wealthy clients. In 2017, there were 160 EAMs in Singapore and Hong Kong, collectively managing $91.5bn in private wealth, according to Asian Private Banker.
Julius Baer is bulking up its intermediaries team to capture more of this market. As we reported last month, James Tan from Maybank joined the desk as a relationship manager. Rivals such as UBS and Credit Suisse are also growing their teams that service EAMs in Asia, and competition to hire people like Choo and Tan is heating up as a result. Sascha Zehnter, Credit Suisse’s APAC head of EAMs, told Citywire in June that his team is looking to grow its headcount in Hong Kong and Singapore following 40% revenue growth in 2017.
“Intermediaries teams have become very important in Asia over the past few years,” says former Merrill Lynch private banker Rahul Sen, now a partner at search firm Boyden. “Private banks are building dedicated desks catering to external firms, and attracting them and their clients with preferred pricing and better trading opportunities, such as direct access to traders and investors.”
Julius Baer, meanwhile, has been growing its workforce in Singapore beyond its intermediaries desk. During the first quarter, for example, it hired DBS banker Laurent Chevalley as a managing director and senior advisor, and recruited Winston Teo from Bank of Singapore as Southeast Asia team head. In May, Sundeep Dua joined from Standard Chartered as a director in Julius Baer’s Singapore-based Indian Subcontinent team. And as we noted in August, Sarah Lim, formerly of UBS, has joined the investment advisory team at Julius Baer as an executive director.
“JB has done a great job in transforming a relatively unknown boutique name in Asia into the present brand, which is no longer alien to RMs and their clients here,” says Liu San Li, a former private banker, now a business partner at wealth management firm Avallis. “It’s now focusing on hiring even more senior RMs, typically at minimum director level or above.”
The bank’s recent hires are now based in Julius Baer’s office within the $5.1bn Marina One business and residential development, which opened earlier this year and has been widely acclaimed as one of the most instagrammable places in Singapore thanks to its urban-oasis architecture and skybridges decked out in tropical greenery.
Between 2015 and 2017, Julius Baer’s headcount of Asia-based RMs shot up by 130 to reach 400 – the largest increase of any private bank not involved in an acquisition during that period. Its new office, which at 100,000 square feet is more than 40% larger than its previous one, suggests more expansion is on the cards in Singapore. Julius Baer employs about 800 people in the Republic (including non-RM staff), but its Marina One site can accommodate up to 1,000, according to Finews Asia.
New Julius Baer recruit Choo began her career in 1995 as an investment planner and FX dealer at UOB. She moved to Citi three years later as a senior relationship manager, before joining Credit Suisse in 2001.
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