Rebranded UK private bank Coutts & Co is set to announce the hire of Timothy Chia from UBS investment bank as its new Asia chairman based in Singapore, AsianInvestor understands.

In effect Chia is taking up a role that has remained dormant since former joint-CEO of RBS Coutts, Hanspeter Brunner, left the firm late in 2009. Brunner had also acted as Asia chairman.

Chia was previously appointed vice-chairman of UBS investment bank for Asia in January 2009 to oversee key client relationships, major transactions and strategic initiatives. His role was largely advisory and he left UBS in September last year.

His former roles have included nine years as president of PAMA Group, formerly known as Prudential Asset Management Asia, until his retirement in 2004.

Chia’s appointment by Coutts follows RBS’s hire of Rory Tapner as its chief executive for wealth management in September 2010.

Tapner, who is a member of RBS’s group management committee and a director of Coutts & Co, was global head of investment banking at UBS and subsequently chairman and CEO of UBS across Asia-Pacific. He was on its group executive board until his exit from UBS in July 2009.

"Tapner was very well respected at UBS, so it's not surprising that he would draw talent from the bank," says a senior industry source based in Singapore.

AsianInvestor understands that Chia’s hire is set to be announced by Coutts this week, along with another senior hire from UBS in Singapore. Rumours are circulating as to who that might be, but AsianInvestor could not confirm information by press time.

Coutts has undergone an internal restructure in Asia, having flattened its private banking structure to focus on specific markets from late last year.

It says it has abandoned its head of private banking positions for both North and Southeast Asia, which had been held by Ignatius Chong (after Ester Heer’s exit) and Paul Davies, respectively. Chong is now market head for Hong Kong, while Davies has taken the title of vice-chairman of Southeast Asia.

Meanwhile, Manfred Liechti is market head for Southeast Asia; Ranjit Khanna is global head of non-resident Indians South Asia; and Andrew Sum is head of Greater China. All of them report regionally to Coutts’ Asia chief executive Nick Pollard.

Other former UBS staff to have joined Coutts include Belinda Lee last April as Asia head of strategy in Hong Kong. Lee spent five years in group strategy at UBS, where she became Asia-Pacific head of strategy. She has previous stints in investment banking and private equity.

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.

The Coutts name stretches back over 300 years. Its core markets are the UK and Channel Islands, Switzerland, Middle East, Singapore and Hong Kong.

Separately, RBC Wealth Management announced yesterday that its global wealth division would acquire the Latin American, Caribbean and African private banking businesses of Coutts, which together had client assets in excess of $2 billion.

The businesses include clients who reside in Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa as well as private banking staff based largely in Geneva and also a team in the Cayman Islands. The transaction is expected to close before the end of the second quarter this year.