Benz tipped to drive change at StanChart private bank

Long-time UBS hand Michael Benz joins Standard Chartered private bank next week as CEO. If he has a strong mandate, change is forecast and major hires could be on the way.
Benz tipped to drive change at StanChart private bank

The incoming new group private banking head of UK-based Standard Chartered, Michael Benz, is being tipped to make changes as he transitions into his new role from the start of next week.

Based in Hong Kong, he is set to start on February 17, reporting to Anna Marrs, who is due to become group head of commercial and private banking clients from April 1, StanChart announced yesterday.

Benz comes in to replace Shayne Nelson, who had been CEO of StanChart private bank based in Dubai but left last August to become chief executive at Dubai-based bank Emirates NBD.

StanChart launched a global search for a replacement out of London and competition was understood to be strong. “To be global head of a name like that is a sexy job and a lot of people were interested,” says a source. “You can do a lot with a job like that.”

Benz is an old UBS Wealth Management hand, having spent 13 years with the Swiss bank in a variety of roles, most recently as Asia-Pacific head of products and services until 2010.

He is widely credited with driving the buildout of UBS’s Asian product platform. “If [Benz] has gotten the right mandate at Standard Chartered, he can do a lot,” adds a source. “I expect there will be a lot of changes and some people may be fearful for their jobs.”

Standard Chartered is not a large private bank, having sold out of the wealth management industry and then re-entered in 2007 with the acquisition of American Express’s banking arm.

To date StanChart private bank has a little over $57 billion in AUM worldwide, of which $45 billion, or 79%, is sourced from Asia. Globally UBS Wealth Management is reportedly the largest with SFr876 billion ($979 billion), of which SFr218 billion, or 25%, is sourced from Asia Pacific.

Internationally, outside of the US, StanChart splits the world into West and East: the former is run by Stephen Richards-Evans out of Dubai and includes the Middle East, Europe and the US; the latter is headed by Rajesh Malkani out of Singapore, covering North and Southeast Asia and India.

StanChart’s private bankers interact closely with its consumer bank, and the bank not known for its ultra-high-net worth platform. Benz may look to change that, given his background, although that would mean major hires.

Benz left UBS, where he made his name, in late 2010 to join Bank of America-Merrill Lynch as its head of wealth management for Asia Pacific. In that role he had been reporting to Sallie Krawcheck, president of global wealth and investment management.

But when Krawcheck left, it is understood Benz became more involved in strategic discussions on what the bank should do with its wealth business. He was instrumental in pushing for BoA-Merrill to sell its private banking business to Julius Baer, in a deal that transpired in 2012.

In the sale process it was announced that Benz would be transferred to Asia chairman at Julius Baer. However, say sources, while he was in favour of pushing through the sale, he effectively found himself without a meaningful job at the acquirer, where Tom Meier is Asia CEO, Kaven Leung is deputy Asia CEO and North Asia chief and David Lim is Singapore CEO.

An internal Julius Baer memo seen by AsianInvestor indicates that Benz in fact opted not to take up his designated role as Asia chairman and exited at the end of November. "Benz] will now take some time off and later on pursue a new professional challenge outside our group," the memo read. "We regret his decision as [Benz's] great experience and competence would have been a valuable addition to our local management team."

A spokesperson for Julius Baer said only that there was no need to replace Benz as chairman.

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