ABN Amro Private Banking has hired Jacqueline Koo from Julius Baer in a newly created role as head of Asian discretionary portfolio management based in Hong Kong.

Koo joined at the start of this month, having resigned from Julius Baer in June. Initially she will look to build two reference model portfolios, one for Asian equities and one for Asian debt. She will cover the equities side, and she already has a fixed income portfolio manager on board.

Beyond that she will seek to build a team, including execution support. Within two months she hopes to accept discretionary mandates and manage money for Asian high-net-worth clients.

This is a customised service through which ABN Amro will invest directly into securities, with a bias for Asia ex-Japan and Australia and including alternatives where appropriate; external third-party funds will be offered separately by the bank.

Koo will follow the broad macro input from ABN Amro’s global investment committee, but will have the freedom to make investment decisions across the portfolios.

Hans-Peter Borg, the firm’s chief commercial officer for private banking in Asia and the Middle East, says the incentive to set up such a service in Asia (its European equivalent was set up more than 10 years ago) was two-fold.

Firstly, he says European ultra-high-net-worth clients are increasingly looking to diversify into Asian exposure, with a preference for that to be managed locally on the ground.

At the same time, he adds that ABN Amro sees increasing interest in discretionary portfolio management among wealthy Asian clients.

“What is supporting this trend is the growing demand for Asian solutions from European clients,” he explains. “They recognise the value of bringing portfolio management closer to the [Asian] markets.

“These two things made us conclude it was the right time to do this, and it fits our broader strategy to commit to further growth in Asia.”

He puts the traditional reticence among Asian investors for discretionary portfolio management down to the preference for control among the region’s first-generation wealthy.

In her new role Koo will report to Hugues Delcourt, country executive for Singapore and chief executive of private banking for Asia and the Middle East. Functionally she reports to Gerben Jorritsma, global head of discretionary portfolio management.

She was previously head of portfolio management for Hong Kong at Julius Baer. She exited shortly before the Swiss private bank announced its acquisition of the international wealth management business of Merrill Lynch.

A spokesperson for Julius Baer says no announcement has been made regarding a replacement for Koo. There is the possibility that one of the Merrill team will be assigned to the same role.

Prior to Julius Baer, Koo was head of investment management at LGT Investment Management (Asia). She has also held similar positions at private banks in London.