Vontobel Holding AG, the Swiss bank and asset manager, hired Societe Generale SA’s Alex Fung to run its wealth management business in Asia.
Fung, 56, who oversaw the French company’s private-banking operations in Hong Kong, north Asia and China, joined last month after a 30-year career in the region. He will report to Georg Schubiger, Vontobel’s head of private banking, the Zurich-based firm said in an e-mailed statement.
“This move underlines Vontobel’s commitment to the key Asian wealth management market, and our desire to continue to grow in this area,” Schubiger said in the statement.
Swiss private banks are seeking to develop relationships with Asian clients as growth in private wealth in the Asia-Pacific region outstrips that of Europe and North America. Fung’s arrival comes after Societe Generale, France’s second-biggest bank, agreed to sell its Asia private-banking operations to DBS Group Holdings Ltd. of Singapore in March.
Firms such as UBS AG and Julius Baer Group Ltd., the No. 1 and No. 3 Swiss managers by client assets, are also investing in the region.
Millionaires’ wealth climbed 15 percent to $152 trillion globally in 2013, supported by a 31 percent surge in the Asia-Pacific region outside Japan to $37 trillion, Boston Consulting Group said in a report in May. Faster growth rates sparked competition for wealthy Asians between local and international banks and some firms quit the region to focus on more profitable markets.
Fung and seven other people hired from Societe Generale will be based in Hong Kong, Vontobel’s sole outpost in Asia for wealth-management clients. The unit is profitable with about 10 employees and has grown managed assets each year since it opened in 2008, Reto Giudicetti, a Zurich-based spokesman for the bank, said by telephone today. Fung wasn’t available for an interview.
While Vontobel doesn’t disclose private-client managed assets for Asia, about 17 percent of the bank’s 109.6 billion Swiss francs ($123.2 billion) at the end of 2013 were from clients in emerging markets such as Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Middle East, Vontobel said in February. Those figures may include assets managed for institutional clients.
Asian clients of Vontobel’s Hong Kong subsidiary book assets in Switzerland, as the bank doesn’t have a license to accept deposits locally. Its bankers operate throughout the region, including Singapore, although Hong Kong is the only office focused on wealth management, Giudicetti said.
DBS said in March it expects to absorb about $10 billion of client assets from the deal with Societe Generale. Bank of America Corp. agreed in 2012 to sell its Merrill Lynch units in Hong Kong and Singapore to Julius Baer.