Julius Baer appoints new Asia CFO and Hong Kong COO

Frank Keller will become the new chief financial officer Asia for Julius Baer, while Tobias Murer takes up the role of chief operating officer in Hong Kong -- just as private banking competition is heating up.

Swiss private bank Julius Baer has appointed Frank Keller as its new chief financial officer in Asia and Tobias Murer as chief operating officer for Hong Kong effective January 1, 2012. They succeed Ian Pollock who has held both positions and has decided to leave the bank by the end of the year to “take up a new professional challenge in Singapore”.

Sources say Pollock is expected to join another boutique Swiss private bank in Singapore; Pollock himself could not be reached for comment. Earlier this year, Julius Baer’s Hong Kong chief executive and North Asia CEO Andrea Benenati also left the firm, though he set out to open an independent asset manager firm.

Such turnover is to be expected, say private bankers, as the boutique firm has been growing from a niche player to a bigger fish in the regional pond. “For now, it’s neither fish nor fowl — it’s certainly not tiny, but it’s not one of the big players either,” said a private banker at a larger firm. “And so you’re going to see turnover. But you know, they’ve also been hiring.”

Last month Victor Chao Tzu-Ping  joined Julius Baer as head of the Greater China team. And in June Mark Matthews joined the bank as head of research for Asia, while Lee Boon Keng was appointed as sole head of the investment solutions group.

For the last two years Keller has been deputy CFO of Bank Julius Baer at its Zurich headquarters. Prior to joining Julius Baer in 2009, Keller spent eight years at Credit Suisse and 10 years at UBS where he held various senior finance positions. In the course of his career, he was based in Singapore and Hong Kong for six years, so is acquainted with this region. He will report directly to Thomas Meier, CEO Asia of Bank Julius Baer.

Since 2009 Tobias Murer has been deputy COO of Julius Baer Hong Kong, heading the business management units. In this position, he has been involved in building and running the bank’s back office in Hong Kong. Before joining Julius Baer in 2007, Murer worked for GAM Switzerland as a private client manager.

During his two years with Julius Baer, Pollock was instrumental in facilitating the bank’s growth in the region. Among other things, he contributed to the upgrade of Julius Baer Hong Kong to full branch status and to the set-up of the bank’s representative office in Shanghai, which is scheduled to open at the beginning of December.

“I sincerely thank Ian Pollock for the valuable work he has done for Julius Baer. In an important phase of our growth in Asia he has ensured that the business was powerfully supported by our CFO and COO units,” said Meier in a statement. “I am very pleased that Frank Keller and Tobias Murer will assume Ian’s positions. Both are very capable experts in their respective fields, adding their great expertise to the vast know-how of our management team in Asia. Together, we will continue to grow our successful business in the region.”

Meanwhile, more private banks keep pushing into the region, hoping to capture a piece of the private banking pie.

Yesterday, Banque Degroof Luxembourg announced it had opened a Hong Kong representative office and appointed Cecilia Chin as its chief representative and general manager. Banque Degroof Luxembourg is part of Banque Degroof, Belgium’s independently held private and investment bank.

Before joining Banque Degroof, Chin headed sales and investor relations at Sail Advisors, a fund of hedge funds group and, prior to that, held senior management positions in business development and client relationships at State Street Global Advisors and State Street Bank.

Banque Degroof Luxembourg has been providing private banking services as well as fund administration services for a wide range of Luxembourg and Belgium domiciled investment funds since the mid 1980s.

“Asia is paving the way in creation of affluence and sophisticated investors, leading to increasing growth in savings and investments,” said Geert de Bruyne, managing director of Banque Degroof Luxembourg. “Having crystallised business opportunities over recent years, it was also timely to establish an office in Hong Kong to develop closer ties with industry practitioners and clients, and lead business development efforts in Asia.”

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