UBS has hired former DBS banker Edmund Koh for the key roles of Singapore country head and chief executive officer for wealth management Singapore. Koh will join the Swiss bank early next year.
Koh was most recently at Ta Chong Bank, a mid-sized Taiwanese bank that Carlyle acquired in December 2007. The US private equity firm headhunted Koh the following year to lead a turnaround of the then loss-making lender. Koh joined as president of Ta Chong in May 2008 along with DBS colleagues Raymond Ang, who came on board to head consumer banking, and Mun-Yew Chew, who was hired as chief operating officer and head of strategy.
Koh brings to his new role at UBS more than two decades of experience in financial services. Before he joined Ta Chong, Koh was head of the regional consumer banking group at DBS Bank in Singapore. He worked with DBS from 2001 until 2008 and is credited with significantly growing its consumer banking franchise across Asia. Koh joined DBS from Prudential Assurance Company, the second largest insurance company in Singapore, where he was CEO. He began his career at HSBC in 1988 and joined Citi in 1994 for a six-year stint.
The memo announcing Koh’s appointment said his hire was “in line with [UBS’s] commitment to continue to strengthen [its] management team in Asia-Pacific”. Koh, who is Singaporean, will become a member of the global wealth management executive committee at UBS.
Gerald Chan, who heads client relationships for fixed-income, currencies and commodities (FICC), has been country head for Singapore for the past three years. He is a UBS veteran, having worked 18 years at the bank. Chan is relinquishing the country head role to Koh to enable him to focus on his FICC job, according to the memo.
The current CEO of wealth management for Singapore, Christine Ong, is currently on an extended leave of absence for personal reasons. She is expected to return to UBS next year, at which time she will take on a new role. Ong has worked with UBS for 19 years.
The reporting line for Koh’s wealth management role will be into Kathryn Shih, CEO of UBS wealth management for Asia-Pacific. FinanceAsia recently named Shih one of the 20 most influential women in finance in Asia. With regard to the Singapore country head role, Koh will report to Alex Wilmot-Sitwell and Chi-Won Yoon, who have been co-chairmen and co-CEOs of UBS for Asia-Pacific since last year.
Commenting on the appointment, Shih referred to Koh as “a very experienced member of [UBS’s] senior team”. The fact that Koh will become a member of the global wealth management committee is testament both to his seniority and how critical Asia-Pacific is becoming for UBS. The bank has more than 900 client advisers in the region and at the end of June it had SFr163 billion ($182 billion) of assets under management in Asia-Pacific. Singapore is one of the two major international booking centres (the other is Hong Kong) for its wealth management business in the region.
UBS has been under some pressure since it emerged earlier this month that unauthorised equity trades by a London-based trader will cause the Swiss bank to book a loss of $2.3 billion. On the back of that, Oswald Grübel resigned from his job as group CEO of UBS over the weekend.
"The recent events in the past few weeks have not changed my decision to join UBS,” said Koh in a written statement. “The fundamental strengths of the bank that attracted me to this job remain unchanged. UBS remains one of the best-capitalised banks in the world with a strong character and brand.”