Julius Baer Would Consider Partnerships in China, CEO Says

Julius Baer CEO: Asia Will Remain Fastest-Growing Area
  • CEO Collardi says bank may invest directly in Chinese firms
  • Julius Baer already has representative office in Shanghai

Julius Baer Group Ltd., Switzerland’s third-largest asset manager, would consider forming strategic partnerships or making direct investments to expand its business in China, said Chief Executive Officer Boris Collardi.

The Zurich-based firm may also set up its own operation in one of the country’s free-trade zones, Collardi said in an interview with Bloomberg Television’s Haslinda Amin from Singapore on Friday. Julius Baer has a representative office in Shanghai.

“We’re looking at different alternatives,” Collardi said. “The model is something we’re going to try to roll out to market.”

Collardi is seeking to expand in a country where millionaire wealth is expected to climb by an average of about 12 percent a year to $8.25 trillion by 2020, according to his firm’s research. He has previously defined Asia as the private bank’s “second home market” with about a quarter of its assets under management stemming from clients in the region.

Collardi didn’t name any specific firms that he was targeting in the interview. He would consider investing in local companies that don’t have “typical banking models,” such as financial-technology businesses, he said.

Asian Expansion

Julius Baer’s larger rivals in Switzerland, UBS Group AG and Credit Suisse Group AG, are also prioritizing managing money for affluent individuals and families in Asia. UBS said in July it’s planning to open a wealth branch in Shanghai.

Investors have been weighing the prospects for European private banks operating in Asia after a summer rout in China’s stock market coincided with the biggest devaluation in the yuan in two decades. Those events roiled emerging markets and hurt investor confidence, a malaise that spread to Europe and other regions.

In 2012, Julius Baer formed a partnership with Bank of China Ltd. to refer each other’s clients and cooperate on product marketing. While the collaboration is going well, the next step would be to devise strategies for the Swiss bank to bring its own wealth services to the mainland, Collardi said later on Friday in a separate interview.

Julius Baer has completed its integration of non-U.S. Merrill Lynch wealth units that it acquired from Bank of America Corp. in 2013, he said. The bank has also made purchases in Mexico and Europe this year.

While not in talks with any company currently, the Swiss firm would consider further acquisitions in its home country and internationally, including those of a “big elephant” size, he said.

“We don’t need to do an acquisition to feel good,” Collardi said. “The business is solid, strong and well-capitalized as it is.”

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