Bank of America Merrill Lynch has poached Michael Benz from UBS to head Merrill Lynch wealth management for the Asia-Pacific region. He will replace Antony Hung, who has headed this division since July 2008. Hung announced his plans to retire from BoA Merrill last week to pursue "alternative professional interests" and some bankers are speculating that he is moving to a competing firm.
Benz's new job entails managing all aspects of wealth management and private banking in the region and strengthening the products, services and capabilities available to clients. He will start in the first quarter of 2011. Wilson So, head of North Asia global wealth management, is heading Merrill Lynch Asia-Pacific wealth management until Benz comes on board.
Benz will report to Sallie Krawcheck, president of global wealth and investment management at Bank of America, and to Brian Brille, president of BoA Merrill for Asia-Pacific.
“The unprecedented rate of wealth creation in the Asia-Pacific region means our wealth management business is of critical strategic importance to us,” said Brille in a written statement announcing the hire. The wealth of Asia-Pacific high-net-worth individuals stood at $9.7 trillion at the end of 2009, up 30.9% from a year earlier, according to the Merrill Lynch CapGemini 2010 World Wealth Report. For the first time ever, the HNWI population in Asia-Pacific was as large as that in Europe, at 3 million.
At UBS, Benz has worked in investment banking, asset management and wealth management across Switzerland, Singapore, Tokyo and Hong Kong since 1993. He moved to Hong Kong in 2003 as Asia-Pacific head of products and services. Earlier this year, Benz also assumed responsibility for UBS’s newly created investment products and services unit in Asia-Pacific.
A UBS spokesperson said a successor to Benz has not yet been announced, but will be confirmed shortly.