Swiss private bank Julius Baer has announced the appointment of Kaven Leung from Goldman Sachs as its new deputy Asia chief executive and North Asia CEO.

Effective from April 19 next year, he will also serve as chief executive of Julius Baer’s recently established Hong Kong branch, subject to regulatory approval, and becomes a member of its Asia executive committee.

An industry heavy-hitter, Leung had been at Goldman for three years, although rumours had circled of his discontent. He was only recently named co-head of its private wealth management business in Asia ex-Japan along with Goldman veteran Ron Lee after the retirement of David Voon on August 1 this year.

While ostensibly brought in to replace Andrea Benenati, who quit as Julius Baer’s North Asia chief earlier this year to set up as an independent asset manager, Leung will have a far bigger role as deputy CEO – a title Benenati never had.

As such Leung will be the anointed successor of Tom Meier, who relocated from Singapore this June to become CEO of the Hong Kong branch and its North Asia chief, in addition to his role as CEO for Asia and the Middle East.

It means that if Meier was to move on – something the market is already speculating about – Leung would become regional CEO, which might be considered a role more befitting someone who was global wealth management CEO for Asia at Citigroup.

“[Leung] is a very big hire, bigger than Benenati and bigger even than Meier,” says a source. “It’s speculation, but I would say the writing is on the wall. You don’t hire such a big guy for a North Asia job. He is a regional head. Meier may have another role lined up after a transition period.”

Leung has pedigree in Asian private banking. For the past three years he has been a partner at Goldman Sachs, a firm he joined in 2008 as deputy head of private wealth management in Asia.

It is whispered that he was disappointed on Voon’s retirement only to be offered a co-head role with Lee, who has been at Goldman Sachs since 1998 and was made a managing director in 2003 and a partner in 2006. One source in fact described Leung as “a Goldman misfit”.

Prior to Goldman he worked at Citigroup for more than 20 years, most recently as CEO of global wealth management Asia and a member of Citigroup’s management committee and Asia management board.

In a statement, Meier described Leung as “the ideal person to further expand our local business”.

Among Julius Baer’s moves this year, it was granted a representative office licence in Shanghai by the China Banking Regulatory Commission. 

It has also recently entered a strategic partnership with Macquarie Group for the mutual referral of private and investment banking opportunities in North and Southeast Asia.

A spokesperson for Goldman Sachs confirmed that Leung had left and that Lee was now sole head of private wealth management for Asia ex-Japan.

Prior to becoming co-head of private wealth management in Asia ex-Japan, Lee was responsible for Goldman’s investment banking business in Hong Kong. He started the Asia ex-Japan financial sponsors practice and was co-head of the industrials group.