Private banking veteran Jimmy Lee will join Julius Baer as head of Asia Pacific from October 1 as the Swiss bank ramps up its presence across the region.
Lee will shuttle between Hong Kong and Singapore and will report directly to Boris Collardi, the group's chief executive officer.
In a statement on Thursday, Julius Baer said Lee, 53, will become the first Asian to join the group’s executive board, a 12-member decision-making body, commencing January 1, 2016.
Lee, who hails from Singapore, will be responsible for building the Asia franchise and regional product platform.
He will take the helm from Thomas Meier, who is returning to Zurich to become the group’s non-executive vice-chairman of wealth management. Meier will also report to Collardi.
Lee has more than two and a half decades of Asia banking experience. He has held senior positions with a number of banks, primarily in his native Singapore. He served as chief executive officer for Asia with Swiss private bank Clariden Leu between 2009 and 2012. Prior to that, he was Deutsche Bank's head of private wealth management for South Asia between 2004 and 2009.
Lee did two stints at Credit Suisse, most recently serving as market group head for Hong Kong from 2012 and 2015. He had previously worked as regional market director for the bank in Singapore between 2000 and 2004.
"Jimmy will oversee all aspects of the bank and the ultimate delivery of our client services in the region, which ranges from the front office, to product areas and infrastructure topics," Collardi told FinanceAsia. "I look forward to working with him and taking the bank to its next phase of growth."
In July, following the release of the interim results, Collardi said the bank would consider selected acquisitions to boost growth,
A Hong Kong-based spokeswoman declined to comment on potential acquisitions in the region.
After acquiring Merrill Lynch’s international wealth management business (ex US) in December last year, Julius Baer's headcount in Asia stood at about 1,100, representing 20% of its global workforce. Asia, the bank's second-largest source of revenue after home market Switzerland, accounted for about a quarter of the group’s 284 billion Swiss francs in assets in June.
Julius Baer is the fourth largest private bank in Switzerland after UBS, Credit Suisse, and Geneva-based Pictet.
The rapid pace of wealth creation in Asia is a big attraction for private bankers. Private wealth in the Asia Pacific (ex Japan) surpassed the EU to become the world’s second richest region last year, as China minted a million new millionaires, according to a Boston Consulting Group report released in June.
BCG expects Asia-Pacific (ex Japan) to have $57 trillion in private financial wealth in 2016, overtaking North America’s $56 trillion.
Swiss private banks are preparing to face more competition from the preferred offshore hubs of Hong Kong and Singapore. “Switzerland will need to reinvest itself to resist the threat from fast-developing Asian booking centers as preferred locations for offshore wealth,” according to BCG.
Hong Kong and Singapore are projected to hold 19% of global offshore assets in 2019, up from 16% in 2014, according to BCG’s forecast.
Despite rising wealth in Asia, the US retains the title as home to the most millionaires, with 7 million millionaire households. China comes in second with 4 million such households, fortunes attributed to the heyday of the country's capital markets.