UK-based Barclays has moved to set up a new desk in Singapore to work with independent asset managers in anticipation that the segment will take off there as it has in Switzerland.

The three-strong team will be headed by Cedric Lizin, who will also continue as the bank’s head of Japan and head of key (ultra-high-net-worth) clients for Asia-Pacific.

Working under Lizin, Barclays has hired Annabelle Chow as director and team head, and Josephine Koh as director, both from Credit Suisse. The pair has spent the past seven-or-so years working to help build Credit Suisse’s external asset manager offering in the region.

Lizin will be tasked with coordinating the new team to provide independent asset managers (IAMs) with access to the bank’s research and investment products, as well as trading capabilities, credit, wealth advisory and investment banking services.

IAMs are typically private bankers who have opted to set up on their own to provide advice to clients. One recent example was Andrea Benenati who left Julius Baer last year. But without an execution platform they must choose which banks/brokers to work with.

Barclays’ new desk is starting from scratch and is looking to build relations with the city’s stock of independent asset managers. It has already exchanged draft agreements with a few, says Lizin.

He estimates there are 500 exempt managers operating without a licence in the city, of which half may be IAMs. Incoming regulation means they will have to be registered to serve up to 30 clients. Any more and they will need to apply for a capital markets serving licence.

But it is a segment of the market that Barclays is betting will grow, with Lizin reckoning IAMs manage about 30% of private banking assets in Switzerland, compared with under 5% in Asia.

“We recognise that the IAM market is a bit underdeveloped in Asia and we see it as promising,” he says. “We reckon we might see the same kind of sentiment here [in Singapore] that has been seen in Switzerland. We don’t want to miss anything and we want to be part of that journey.”

Barclays’ stated target is to become a top three player in the IAM segment within a few years and is aiming for it to contribute 5-10% of revenues from its Asian private banking business.

A spokesman for Credit Suisse in Singapore confirmed that Chow and Koh had been replaced, the former through an external hire from a rival.

The Swiss bank says it has SFr90 billion in assets under management in its external asset manager business globally, with its Asia unit having grown 50% in the past three years. It now has 30 staff in Singapore, Hong Kong and Switzerland serving Asian external asset manager clients.