UK private bank Coutts has announced the appointment of Gary Dugan as its new chief investment officer for Asia and the Middle East, based in Singapore.

Dugan is set to join in July and relocate from Dubai, where he has worked since 2009 as CIO of Emirates NBD, a banking group with $81 billion in AUM formed through the 2007 merger of Emirates Bank International and National Bank of Dubai.

He has been hired to replace Norman Villamin, Coutts’ former Asia CIO who himself is relocating to Zurich to assume the role of CIO for Europe. Villamin quit Citi Private Bank as equity portfolio strategist in June 2010 to join RBS as head of its investment strategy in Asia in a new role.

And Ian Ewart, head of products, services and marketing for Coutts, tells AsianInvestor that Coutts has a clear strategy to grow its international business.

"We have great confidence that business will continue to grow in Asia and we are therefore developing Singapore and Hong Kong as key international Coutts private banking centres.

"Over the next few years we will be focusing on our core markets in the region: Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia, India and Greater China, enhancing our investment product suite and services, and investing in our people, in talent and in systems to better serve our clients."
 
He notes, too, that Coutts has been investing in its platform in the UK, Europe and Asia, and says 10 senior executives are due to join its products and services team globally over coming months. 

Dugan’s appointment adds to a string of hires that Coutts has made in this area over the past few months. 

Just last week Ken Sue started as its Asia head of products and services based in Hong Kong, having been Asia-Pacific head of wealth management sales at HSBC previously. The role was created as a result of Coutts’ restructuring late last year, with the firm having only had a global head of products and services up until that point.

Last month Coutts added three to its products and services team in Singapore: Edouard Hoepffner as head of new product development and client solutions; Elaine Ngim as Asia head of fixed income; and Kieran Calder as Asia head of equities.

It comes after the appointment of Paul Sarosy from Credit Suisse as head of investment solutions, effective this summer. Based in London, he will be responsible for leading product development and will report to Gayle Schumacher, head of Coutts’ investment office. 

Prior to Emirates NBD, Dugan served as CIO of Merrill Lynch global wealth management in London, following five years at Barclays in London as head of research and investment strategy for its wealth management business.

He also spent 11 years at JP Morgan Chase, primarily as a global strategist and head of global multi-asset portfolios for Europe and Asia at JP Morgan Asset Management.

Coutts & Co dropped the Royal Bank of Scotland name last November to revitalise its brand, having operated as RBS Coutts outside of the UK since 2008. RBS acquired the Coutts business when it bought National Westminster Bank in 2000.

It has been rebuilding after losing around 100 staff in Singapore following the departure of Hanspeter Brunner as co-chief executive of RBS Coutts in 2009.