StanChart hires Benz to head private bank

Former Julius Baer and BoA Merrill private banker Michael Benz is set to join Standard Chartered.

Standard Chartered has hired Michael Benz as group head of private banking, filling a position that has been vacant since Shayne Nelson left in August last year.

Benz has a long track record in wealth management in Asia. He was most recently at Julius Baer, as the designated chairman for Asia after joining the bank in 2013 through its acquisition of Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s private banking business, where he had been chief executive for wealth management in Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, California, India and Japan since 2010. Before that he spent 13 years at UBS, most recently as Asia-Pacific head of products and services in Hong Kong.

Such pedigree is in high demand in Asia, where the growth of private banking is outstripping the supply of experienced advisers. “What we are seeing across the private banking industry is a massive demand for quality relationship managers,” said one headhunter.

Global wealth is expected to rise by roughly 40% during the next five years, according to Credit Suisse’s latest Wealth Report, with emerging markets — and China in particular — responsible for about 30% of that growth.

The hire becomes effective on February 17, when Benz will be based in Hong Kong and report to Anna Marrs, who is assuming the role of group head of commercial and private banking clients under a reorganisation that accompanied the surprise departure of its finance director, Richard Meddings.

The bank has been under pressure since last year to show that an economic slowdown in emerging markets is not about to undermine its long run of success. Private banking is one of the businesses it showcases to counter the pessimists.

“Standard Chartered’s footprint markets are expected to account for 60% of the global growth in high-net-worth-individuals’ personal financial assets over the next three years,” said Marrs in a statement announcing the hire.

The bank’s focus on small and medium-sized businesses gives it direct access to the entrepreneurs who will become the millionaires of tomorrow, and since 2007 it has built a private banking business almost from scratch that allows it to capitalise on the success of this client base.

Peter Sands, Standard Chartered’s chief executive, announced the reorganisation during an investor day in November last year. Under the plan, wholesale and consumer banking will be integrated to form one business, divided across three customer groups: corporate and institutional, which represents about 60% of the bank’s income; commercial and private banking, which is roughly 10%; and retail, which makes up the other 30%.

The bank will sell products through five global groups: financial markets, corporate finance, transaction banking, wealth products and retail products.

The re-jig does not affect Jaspal Bindra, who will stay in charge of the bank’s Asia businesses (except for Pakistan, which is run from London).

While Benz runs the customer side of the private bank, Judy Hsu will become group head of wealth products from her current position of global head of wealth management and priority and international banking.

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