Awards for Distinction 2016 – Private Banker of the Year



Albert Chiu

Albert Chiu
chief executive, Asia Pacific
EFG Bank

The quest to identify one outstanding private banker amongst a pool of supremely talented practitioners invariably throws up a number of sinewy questions: does one prioritise business acumen and performance, leadership qualities, strategic foresight or legacy?

Ultimately, there can be no definitive answer; and because Asia is home to a miscellany of institutions, business models and value propositions, private bankers rarely conform to a single ‘ideal’. But peel back the layers of any private bank in Asia and one will find an individual who has consistently set themselves apart from the rest, whether 2016, as most would readily agree, was no ordinary year for the industry, but rather a moment of sustained uncertainty, replete with shock political events and regulatory tightening. Such conditions provide fertile ground for individuals to distinguish themselves from the rest. It is against this challenging backdrop that we have sought to identify a private banker who has demonstrated leadership, business smarts and fortitude under intense pressure.

Arguably, few practitioners faced a more pressing set of challenges in 2016 than Albert Chiu, EFG Bank’s chief executive for Asia Pacific and an EFG banker since 2000.

Indeed, Chiu, who has had an instrumental hand in building out EFG’s lean and entrepreneurial franchise in Asia, spent 2016 contending with an integration that would cause a less-mettled private banker to wilt.

The BSI deal is, of course, global in scope, but the Asia region assumed particular import due to BSI’s well-publicised regulatory transgressions that cost the bank its licence in Singapore and that will continue to reverberate throughout the industry in 2017.

While not the only acquisition to take place last year, the EFG-BSI deal threw up a singular set of challenges that had Chiu shuffling between Hong Kong, Singapore and Switzerland, actively engaging with clients, employees and regulators to ensure a smooth and, ultimately, optimal solution for all stakeholders; and by November, the Singapore integration – facilitated by an accelerated asset deal – was complete. Such was the “success” of the integration process in Singapore that EFG is using it as the “blueprint for other international locations”.

Market conditions did little to moderate Chiu’s task list in 2016. An industry-wide slump in transactional business hit private banks throughout the region, with some players recording as much as a 40% drop in volumes, according to APB Mandate data. EFG in Asia was not insulated from this dynamic, but by the year’s end, Chiu had guided the bank to within par levels, all the while executing a number of key hires, including a high-profile market manager and DPM head.

Chiu’s resume, which includes a seven-year stint as treasury manager for HSBC Bank USA Hong Kong branch before joining EFG, does not read like the archetypal private banker. But it is perhaps for this reason that he has successfully carved out such a nodal role at an institution that epitomises the ambition and tenacity of entrepreneurial Asia more than most other private banks.

To be sure, EFG has garnered its fair share of admirers and detractors in industry, but few would deny the leadership and mettel Chiu demonstrated throughout 2016 as well as the instrumental role Chiu has played.

Albert Chiu is Asian Private Banker’s Private Banker of the Year for 2016.