UPDATE 2-Julius Baer aims to double Asia contribution

* Asian AUM could grow to 20-25 pct of total in 5 years

* Has 1.2 bln Swiss francs in excess capital for M&A

* Clients still pulling money out of hedge funds, pvt equity

(Updates with data, more background)

By Kevin Lim

SINGAPORE, Sept 6 (BestGrowthStock) – Julius Baer (BAER.VX: ),
Switzerland’s No.3 private bank, plans to double its Asian assets
to 20-25 percent of its total in five years as it recruits new
staff and opens more offices in the fast-growing region.

Julius Baer, which had 166 billion Swiss francs ($155.4
billion) in assets under management as of end-June, derives the
bulk of its business in Europe, with Asian clients accounting
for just over 10 percent of total assets.

But the bank has identified Asia as its “second home market”
and its expansion plans include upgrading its Northeast Asia
headquarters in Hong Kong to a booking centre before year-end
and opening a representative office in Shanghai next year.

Julius Baer also plans to set up a trust office in Singapore
to advise clients in areas such as estate planning, CEO for Asia
and the Middle East Thomas Meier said on Monday.

“We are trying to move into a (Singapore) office space that
can house 700 people,” he said when asked about new hirings. The
bank employs over 400 people in Asia, the majority of them in
Singapore.

Global private banks are increasingly turning their eyes to
Asia, where — with the exclusion of Japan — wealth is expected
to grow at nearly twice the global rate, according to the Boston
Consulting Group.

Private banks in Singapore and Hong Kong, the region’s most
prominent financial centres, already manage $700 billion.

While Switzerland remains the world’s biggest wealth
management centre with $2 trillion of offshore managed wealth,
the centre came under pressure from an erosion of traditional
bank secrecy and a bitter U.S. tax fraud investigation into
Swiss bank giant UBS (UBSN.VX: )(UBS.N: ).

MORE ACQUISITIONS?

Julius Baer CEO Boris Collardi said the bank was keen on
“selective acquisitions” and has excess capital of 1.2 billion
Swiss francs available to support its growth strategy.

“We would love to buy something in Asia… The problem is
everybody wants to buy but nobody wants to sell,” he said.

Julius Baer has already significantly boosted its presence
in Asia thanks to its acquisition last year of the Asian private
banking assets of Dutch bank ING (INS.AS: ).

Julius Baer’s Asian operations have seen double-digit
increases in new client money and Asia’s millionaires will
likely see assets grow by an average of 13 percent annually in
the next five years, he added, citing a report by Merrill Lynch
and Capgemini.

The wealth manager said it also hoped to “grow
opportunistically” in central and eastern Europe as well as in
Latin America, the Middle East and Indian subcontinent but will
continue to shun the United States.

Collardi said private banking clients were still moving
their wealth out of hedge funds and private equity even as
institutional money returns to the sector.

Private clients were still cautious in their outlook and the
more popular investments at the moment included gold and foreign
exchange, he said.

Julius Baer, Switzerland’s third largest wealth manager
after Credit Suisse (CSGN.VX: )(CS.N: ) and UBS, has emerged
strongly from the financial crisis. The firm has tier-one
capital of 23.8 percent, giving it ample room to grow its
business aggressively.
(Additional reporting by Lisa Jucca in Zurich; Editing by Mike
Nesbit)
($1=1.068 Swiss Francs)

UPDATE 2-Julius Baer aims to double Asia contribution