The model for private banking in Asia is evolving on an annual basis, with private banks struggling to identify their raison d’etre in the various local markets where they operate. Hence, the definition of a ‘pure play’ or ‘boutique’ bank is also evolving in the Asian context. Several characteristics are attributed to this particular model of private banking, including a singular focus on wealth management, a client-centric model, and a niche value proposition. All of these are accurate to varying degrees. For the purpose of this award, Asian Private Banker defines a bank as ‘pure play’ if its sole core business activity is wealth management.With a little imagination and daring, one bank has shown the industry the extent to which this definition may be stretched. Julius Baer, the deserved winner of this year’s award, is the largest pure play bank in the region based on both assets under management (AUM) and headcount. Indeed, it is the only pure play amongst Asia’s top ten private banks by AUM.
The bank has distinguished itself on many fronts – most notably for its entrepreneurial and innovative ethos, qualities that Asian clients not only identify with, but admire. A first-mover in the region’s industry consolidation with its acquisition of Merrill Lynch International Wealth Management, Julius Baer has thus become the forbearer for its kind, setting the benchmark for both the price and execution strategy for future deals. Julius Baer’s claim, that its client-centric culture would prevail both during and after the integration, was validated by the remarkable asset transfer rate of over 80% in both Hong Kong and Singapore. At the time of the submission for the award, over 20% of the group’s CHF285 billion (US$286 billion) in AUM was from its Asian franchise.
However, compromising stability for growth is not in the best interests of a bank or its clients. Proving that growth can, indeed, be sustainable, Julius Baer has demonstrated that it has a solid financial foundation with a Tier I capital ratio of 22.4% – higher than several of its peers in both the integrated and pure play spaces.
With an exciting and ambitious growth strategy, backed by enviable financial stability and a demonstrable dedication to, and backing from, its Asian clients, Julius Baer has proven itself to be the deserved winner of the award for Best Private Bank – Pure Play in 2014.