The wealth management divisions of UBS and BNP Paribas yesterday unveiled senior appointments in their ultra-high-net-worth (ultra-HNW) teams, a highly competitive area among service providers.

In a memo, the Swiss bank revealed that Jeremy Tan has joined from Citi Private Bank as a managing director in Singapore to focus on developing its family office business for Southeast Asia. He reports to regional market manager Peter Kok in the city-state and to ultra-HNW head for Southeast Asia Daniel Harel.

Tan is joined by Rennie Lim who has come on board as a director and client adviser, also from Citi Private Bank, and further hires are set to be announced, according to a UBS spokeswoman.

Meanwhile, BNP Paribas has named Rémi Frank as head of its ultra-HNWI and independent wealth managers segments. He becomes a member of the BNP Paribas Wealth Management executive committee, having previously been the bank’s head of equity derivatives sales and structuring for corporate and investment banking (CIB).

“Given the importance of ultra-HNWI and independent wealth managers in a rapidly changing market, it is essential to strengthen our approach to these segments,” says Jacques d’Estais, CEO of the bank’s wealth management business. “Close co-operation with CIB will be one of the keys to the success of their development.”

BNP notes that the ultra-HNW segment is enjoying market growth of 7.2% per year, versus 6% for the overall market.

Ultra-HNWIs increased their wealth by 21.5% in 2009, according to the World Wealth Report 2010 published by Merrill Lynch Wealth Management and consultancy Capgemini.

The increase, which followed a 24% loss in wealth for the segment in 2008, was most likely due to a more effective reallocation of assets. Strikingly, at the end of 2009, ultra-HNWIs represented only 0.9% of the global HNWI population but accounted for 35.5% of global HNWI wealth.

“UBS is committed to further developing the ultra-HNW segment for Southeast Asia, which represents enormous potential with the rise of wealth creation in the region,” notes UBS in its memo. “Family office is a growing area of focus for UBS and is an integral part of our ultra-HNW strategy. We anticipate Singapore to play a major role as a regional hub for Asian and European families who look to organise themselves as an institutional counterparty to wealth managers.”

But UBS has suffered numerous staff departures from its wealth management business in Singapore over the past year. Tee Fong Seng joined Credit Suisse in August last year as head of ultra-HNWI for private banking in Asia-Pacific. He was joined by Ben Cavalli as market head for Singapore.

Subsequently, Srinivas Siripurapu quit to join Barclays Wealth as its head for Southeast Asia and South Asia along with a nine-strong UBS team. Bank Sarasin also hired Grace Barki from UBS in December as a vice-chairman and head of Southeast Asia, along with her Indonesia team. In January, UBS hired Reto Marx from Sarasin as country team head for its South Asia ultra-HNW business.

But the UBS spokeswoman noted that its latest hires were about building the expertise of its family office. “The new hires reinforce UBS’s offering for the ultra-HNW segment and enable us to capitalise on any increase in family office activity in Singapore,” she says. “Our ultra-HNW team is very deep and, in terms of the percentage of people who have left, it is very small. We have made strategic hires over the past year as well.”

Separately, Barclays Wealth announced the appointment of Thelma Kwan yesterday as head of wealth advisory, Asia-Pacific. Based in Hong Kong, she will lead a team of trust consultants in Hong Kong and Singapore and oversee the provision and marketing of trust structuring and wealth advisory services to the bank’s HNW and ultra-HNW clients across Asia.

She came from LGT Wealth Management Services where she had been an executive director of trust services for the past three years.

She reports to London-based Rob Withecombe, head of the bank’s wealth advisory, as well as to Didier Von Daeniken, chief executive of Barclays Wealth Asia-Pacific.

Barclays Wealth obtained a licence from the Monetary Authority of Singapore in June that enables it to conduct trust business in Singapore and to provide a regulated platform for global clients seeking trust services out of Singapore.