BNP Paribas Wealth Management has appointed a head of private investments for Hong Kong, amid growth in Asian client appetite for direct investments in alternative assets such as property and private equity.

Other private banks, such as Switzerland's UBP, are also looking at building their direct investment resources in the region.

Maggie Chan joined BNPP WM from private markets manager LGT Capital Partners, where she was executive director of business development based in Hong Kong.

Chan started her new role in November and is responsible for sourcing and recommending private equity and real estate investments to clients, according to her LinkedIn page. She reports to Prashant Bhayani, Singapore-based chief investment officer for Asia at BNPP WM.

Maggie Chan

BNPP WM declined to say whether Chan had replaced anyone or how her responsibilities were dealt with before she arrived.

She has also worked for private markets firm HarbourVest Partners, ING Real Estate Investment Management and Baring Capital Partners.

Recruiters told AsianInvestor that Chan’s role could well be a newly created one, given that demand is growing for private-market assets among wealthy individuals—just as it is among institutional investors.

Co-investment appetite

The larger wealth managers have had teams focused on such investments for some time, but now the smaller players are increasingly looking to tap client demand in this area, said Thomas Stemp, founder and managing director of recruiter Stemp International.

For example, Swiss group UBP offers several direct investment opportunities each year, often as part of a co-investment with the bank’s owning family, he noted.

“That can be an exciting prospect for clients. They are more willing now to take a phone call on such opportunities in preference to another equity trading idea or re-allocation.”

Since it was set up in January 2015, UBP’s Geneva-based direct investments team has grown from two to seven and completed 11 deals in areas ranging from real estate to commercial aviation, medical technology, commodities and renewables, said Brice Thionnet, head of direct investments, by email.

The demand for direct investments from Asian clients is extremely high, he told AsianInvestor, and UBP will be looking at reinforcing its team in the region in 2018. Asia accounts for 10% to 20% on average of the bank's commitments to direct deals, said Thionnet. 

Meanwhile, Stemp said, HSBC Private Bank has grown its direct private investment business exponentially in Asia in the past four years. 

HSBC could not provide comment immediately by press time.

Another trend is that private equity firms are seriously looking at the private banking client base in Asia as a source of extra capital, said Stemp. “This is an area that is highly likely to develop in Asia in the future.

“Fundraising with institutional investors can be a lengthy and sometimes unrewarding experience, especially for the smaller [PE] funds,” said Stemp. “Building relationships with private banks that can fulfill a $200 million allocation within a specific time frame can be an alternative channel for funds to explore.”