Boutique Swiss private bank Lombard Odier Darier Hentsch has hired five senior relationship managers in Hong Kong and says further appointments can be expected as it strives to deepen its Asia penetration.
The privately owned family business, which has its headquarters in Geneva, picked up four of these hires from UBS Wealth Management in Hong Kong.
In an interview, Philip Jehle, Lombard Odier’s managing director for North Asia, pulled few punches, stating that the days of product-pushing are over and that the environment is ripe for boutique firms to attract senior talent from larger rivals.
“The deleveraging that has occurred following the global financial crisis in 2008 has resulted in a structural change in the market. It is not a cyclical change,” he says.
“Senior guys recognise that and, in my view, more are willing to move to a boutique house where the client is still the focus. To leave a big brand behind for a boutique takes guts. But I think the market has changed to such an extent that it has become easier for senior relationship managers to make that change."
“We think there are more opportunities than ever before to hire these senior guys. You can expect us to hire more people here in Asia,” he adds.
Lombard Odier more than doubled the size of its team of relationship managers in Hong Kong in this round of recruitment. Philippe Adler, who has spent the past 18 years with UBS in Geneva, London and Hong Kong, is the most senior hire as managing director.
The four other appointments come on board as executive directors: Dominik Fuerst, who has 10 years’ experience with UBS in Zurich, Sydney, Tokyo and Hong Kong; Tanya Ward, who has spent 14 years with UBS in London and Hong Kong; Doreen Tan, who has spent the past 20 years with Bankers Trust, Chase Manhattan, Jardine Fleming, Citigroup and UBS in New York, Singapore and Hong Kong; and Barbara Wang, who has 13 years’ private banking experience and was formerly managing director of the Asian family office at W Capital Group.
Lombard Odier’s chairman and head of private clients for Asia, Jean de Haller, sits in Geneva. His regional management team in Asia consists of Jehle for North Asia and Richard Wee for Southeast Asia.
The firm has regional offices in Hong Kong, Singapore and Tokyo and over 60 staff in the region. It has global assets under management of $152 billion, while its Asia AUM is less than $5 billion, estimates Jehle. “We would like to increase that substantially,” he adds.
Lombard Odier has had a presence in Hong Kong since 1986. It opened its Tokyo office in 1991 and its Singapore office two years ago.
Asked why the company had not grown more in Asia despite having been in the region for a quarter of a century, Jehle says: “It is not about lack of ambition. The market has to be ready for what we have to offer and to believe in what we have to offer. Before 2008, customers were happy to pile into products and accumulators. But in doing so they lost touch with the market and what they had in their portfolio."
“We represent private money, not shareholders’ money. If you are a high-net-worth individual you want to be with a bank that is privately owned. Partners and investors have their interests aligned. They want to preserve the purchasing power of their money, and to add to it,” he says.
Lombard claims it has enjoyed strong inflows of net new cash since the outbreak of the global financial crisis, although its Geneva headquarters declined to reveal any figures in response to AsianInvestor requests.
“For big corporate banks now, you have seen how their balance sheets have shrunk. Revenue in private banking generally will shrink, so there has been a maturity process that has happened thanks to 2008. We believe in a set of values, we believe in the value of wealth preservation, focusing on making money for our clients and we believe that revenue will be a by-product of that.”
Jehle defends the firm’s offshore private banking model, despite increasing moves by big and small wealth managers to represent client money onshore amid increased regulatory scrutiny and a clampdown on cross-border tax evasion.
Lombard has no plans to open any new offices in Asia, says Jehle. “I can see a lot of people are setting up shop in China, but for us that is too early for what we have to offer. We will move there when we are ready.”
Asked if Lombard Odier might consider basing a chairman in Asia, he adds: “At some stage, to find someone of the calibre of a partner who can be chairman based in Asia would make sense, but you have to be opportunistic.”
A spokesman for UBS in Hong Kong declined to comment for this article.