Asia’s Richest Banker Plans Family Office But Spurns Cryptocurrencies

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  • Investments to include sectors like private equity, realty
  • Won’t compete with bank for investment opportunities: official
Uday Kotak Photographer: Udit Kulshrestha/Bloomberg

The family of Uday Kotak, billionaire managing director of Kotak Mahindra Bank Ltd., is setting up an office to invest in assets including private equity, stocks and real estate worldwide.

“The funds will be deployed in asset classes other than debt and cryptocurrencies,” Venkat Subramanian, who will manage the family office, said in an interview in Mumbai last week. “We will also stay clear of any investment opportunities that will bring us in direct competition with the bank.”

While Subramanian didn’t disclose a figure, Kotak has about $1.2 billion in cash and investable assets, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Most of the money was raised when he cut his stake in the bank to meet regulatory requirements.

The Mumbai-based banker, whose $10.3 billion fortune makes him the eighth-richest person in India and the wealthiest banker in Asia, held about 30 percent in Kotak Mahindra Bank as of end-September, which is worth $9 billion based on current prices. That’s down from 33.6 percent in December 2016, a little before the Reserve Bank of India directed the company to gradually reduce the founders’ stake to 15 percent by March 2020 in line with guidelines for bank licenses.

Bitcoin Risks

Kotak started out in finance in 1985 by setting up an investment company with a 3 million rupee ($50,000) loan from family and friends. Today he controls India’s fourth-largest private-sector lender by assets. Kotak Mahindra shares have risen about 42 percent over the past year, compared with a 39 percent gain for the Bankex Index, a gauge of 10 lenders in the country. 

Subramanian, who is currently chief executive officer at Infina Finance Pvt., a $470 million long-short fund that has Kotak and his bank as sole investors, is working with members of Kotak’s family to put in place a team to manage the office. Kotak hadn’t set up a family office so far as most of his wealth was locked in the bank’s equity until March 2017.

Investing in debt would bring the family office into direct competition with the bank, while purchases of bitcoin may prove to be risky, Subramanian said. The world’s largest cryptocurrency has tumbled more than 20 percent from a mid-December high.

Read: Cryptocurrencies Slide as Regulation, Demand Concerns Linger

“While the concept of cryptocurrency is alluring, as its value cannot be influenced by any government, the family office will not look at investing in it," Subramanian said. He also flagged possible regulatory clampdowns and the addition of new global cryptocurrencies as risks to value.

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