Barclays Wealth has hired Pakorn Boonyakurkul from HSBC Private Bank to replace Joanna Chu as head of North Asia as it seeks to accelerate its Greater China growth.

The private banking arm of the UK’s Barclays Bank achieved booking-centre status in Hong Kong late last year, which it wants to use as a springboard for growth in Greater China above all.

It applied to set up an RMB service offering for the Hong Kong booking centre, initially for deposits and RMB bonds. It is understood the firm is hopeful this will be up and running next month.

And Barclays Wealth has now confirmed that Boonyakurkul will spearhead its wealth management business across Greater China and North Asia, effective from May 3.

He joins as a managing director and replaces Chu, pictured left, who assumes the role of market head and chief country officer for Hong Kong. She had joined Barclays Wealth in January 2009 as co-head of North Asia and assumed the role as North Asia head in August 2009.

Helen Pun, who had joined the firm in April last year and taken on the role of Hong Kong market head, will revert to the role of banker, reporting to Chu.

A spokesman for the firm says: “This is about a reassignment of responsibilities. Joanna will dedicate her time towards managing the bankers serving clients in this market [Hong Kong] and will focus on significantly growing our business.”

AsianInvestor can further reveal that Carole Cheung, a former colleague of Boonyakurkul’s at HSBC, where she worked as a managing director with a Philippines focus, has quit. A spokeswoman for HSBC Private Bank could not confirm the news by press time.

The speculation is Cheung will join Boonyakurkul at Barclays Wealth, but the Barclays spokesman says only: “As with all appointments, we will make the announcement at the appropriate time.”

In November last year, Chu told AsianInvestor she was planning to add client assets and hire more relationship managers, but confessed she did not find Hong Kong an easy market to hire in and would look to recruit in Singapore for the North Asia business.

Boonyakurkul has worked for HSBC Private Bank for eight years, and in private banking for the past 25 years. Most recently he oversaw 200 staff at HSBC PB, taking care of onshore business in Japan and Taiwan, and offshore business in the Philippines, as well as non-resident Indians. He has also held leadership roles in institutions including Citi Private Bank and Bankers’ Trust.

He will join Barclays Wealth’s Asia-Pacific management committee and report to Didier von Daeniken, chief executive of Barclays Wealth Asia-Pacific.

In a statement, Von Daeniken says of Boonyakurkul: “His proven track record, as well as his experience in dealing with billionaire clients, will be crucial in our drive to further expand the business, with a focus on the ultra-high-net-worth space.”

Barclays Wealth has been on a hiring spree of late. Last month it unveiled 12 new director-level hires in Hong Kong and Singapore.

In the middle of last year it added six senior bankers to its Southeast Asia and South Asia teams, a business run by Srinivas Siripurapu, who joined the firm at the end of 2009 from UBS.

At that time Barclays Wealth said that Siripurapu had a team of about 40 bankers and was planning to double this by the end of 2011. AsianInvestor understands he now has a team of over 60, while Barclays Wealth has more than 100 bankers in the Asia-Pacific region overall.

Barclays Wealth has been expanding its Asia-Pacific footprint. Last July it announced a private banking joint-venture in Japan with Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation and Nikko Cordial Securities to provide wealth management services to high-net-worth individuals in Japan.

The previous month it obtained a licence from the Monetary Authority of Singapore to conduct trust business in Singapore, while in November 2008 it launched private banking services in India.

Barclays Wealth had total client assets of £164 billion ($266 billion) at the end of 2010. The firm does not break out its regional numbers, but sources say Asia accounts for about 10%.