Clariden Leu has hired a senior team from HSBC Private Bank to cover the Indian subcontinent and non-resident Indians (NRIs) in Asia for the first time to fill what had been a gap in its global platform.

The Swiss private bank has appointed Varun Chugh as head of the Indian subcontinent and NRI Asia, with overall responsibility for this business, which will be based out of Singapore. 

He will be supported by Ravi Ramakrishnan as a senior relationship manager responsible for client acquisition and managing clients; Sanith Jayaprakash as a relationship manager; Gaurav Shah as an account manager; and Saumil Jayant Sheth as an investment adviser.

Chugh reports to Niels Zilkens, global head of the NRI subcontinent and NRIs based in Zurich, and locally to Yee Chin Lit, head of Southeast Asia. The others report to Chugh, with the appointments effective immediately.

In an interview with AsianInvestor, Zilkens confirms that these hires are all new appointments, with a dedicated head of the business having been installed in Asia for the first time. "These are new hires that are basically looking for new clients in that segment," he says. "We are not replacing anyone, we are expanding."

Zilkens was appointed two-and-a-half years ago from Credit Suisse to a global role with a remit to build the business. It has India-focused teams in Zurich, Dubai and now Singapore. "When I started we were in business with NRIs and also the Indian subcontinent, but there was no vision to explore that market systematically," he says. "That was my assignment when I started.

"We were not really collaborating among locations and catering to NRI clients on a global scale. In Singapore we did not have a strong team in place specifically looking after the NRI segment. Since NRI business is a priority client segment for Clariden Leu, they wanted to build up that business at a faster pace, and that is what I am doing."

He notes that Clariden Leu has about SFr96 billion ($104 billion) in assets under management including products and services globally, less than 10% of which is Asia-focused. Of the Asia figure, the NRI business accounts for about a quarter.

"That is an indication of where we stand and it gives you a feeling of how important the NRI business and the Indian subcontinent is for us, especially in Asia," he adds. "NRIs function in communities and they and their wealth are spread globally, so it needs teams that work with each other located in different areas."

Zilkens points to the appeal of the NRI market in particular. He estimates that ultra-high-net-worth individuals (UHNWIs) on the Indian subcontinent account for $80 billion to $90 billion in assets, whereas the figure for NRI assets globally is more like $450 billion.

In Asia, he says, the potential NRI assets are put at around $80 billion, of which $25 billion is in Singapore alone. "That is why we are very much focusing on the NRI business," adds Zilkens, who is anticipating relative year-on-year growth for the business of about 60% in Asia.

Chugh previously held senior roles with HSBC Private Bank and before that he was instrumental in starting ABN Amro's private banking business in India.

Ramakrishnan was also most recently at HSBC Private Bank, and has previously worked for Royal Bank of Canada and Saudi British Bank. Jayaprakash used to work in cash management and corporate wealth management with HSBC Bank and Standard Chartered Bank, and both Shah and Sheth have had roles with HSBC Private Bank, Citi Wealth Management and ABN Amro. 

A spokeswoman for HSBC Private Bank did not respond by press time to questions about whether the firm has replaced any or all of these departures.