Swiss banking group Edmond de Rothschild (EdR) has added six client-facing staff as part of plans to expand its private banking presence in Asia.

The individuals hired include Stephen So, Selwyn Au-Yeung and Francis Tang – all of whom are managing directors and team heads – and Rebecca Tam, a relationship manager covering Hong Kong. All four previously worked for HSBC Private Bank and joined EdR in the past few months.

HSBC declined to comment on whether they have been replaced.

Au-Yeung joined EdR in February, having previously been Asia head of wealth planning at HSBC Private Bank, according to LinkedIn. He has also worked at Citi and Deloitte.

The six as a group have background across corporate finance, trust and succession planning, and investment advisory. All have region-wide responsibility for Asia, some with a more specific focus on Greater China.

An EdR spokesman says they most recently worked for various private banks, including HSBC, UBS and Coutts, suggesting that the unidentified two individuals worked with the latter two firms.

The roles are all newly created and form part of the bank’s strategy to increase its AUM to 158 billion ($218 billion) by 2016 from 134 billion as of end-2013. “Asia will contribute significantly to that from both private banking and asset management business,” says Monique Chan, Asia CEO.

However, EdR has also suffered recent departures in Hong Kong, say sources, including that of chief operating officer Stephane Kiefer and head of compliance King Chan. The spokesman declined to comment.

To continue the regional buildout, the firm will aim to provide services to entrepreneurs and their families in wealth development, preservation and planning. Other EdR offerings include corporate finance, M&A and private equity.

Other European boutique banks, such as Lombard Odier, have also made aggressive moves to expand in Asia, with the group hiring its first regional chief operating officer and chief risk officer last August.

But Asia is seen as a challenging environment for private banks – particularly smaller ones – and may go to explain recent M&A activity in the region, such as DBS acquisition of Société Générale’s Asian wealth business.

Cost-to-income ratio among private banks is particularly high in Asia, ranging from 80-95%. This is compared to the US and Europe where the figure is 70-80%, according to a study from consultancy Accenture.

But Chan stresses that its boutique model remains strong. “Smaller boutique private banks can’t compete with the larger private banks such as UBS and HSBC, but their strengths lie in the service they can provide,” she says.

The boutique banks can offer a more personal and tailored service, adds Chan. Moreover, she says: “We can be totally independent when advising our private and institutional clients. We don’t have an investment bank, but we see that as a positive attribute, as we are able to offer an open architecture platform.”