Rothschild on buildout in HK hub, eyes Singapore

Edmond de Rothschild Group is boosting its private banking capabilites in Hong Kong, and will look to add 10 staff in the next 12 months. It is also exploring opportunities for a Singapore office.
Rothschild on buildout in HK hub, eyes Singapore

Edmond de Rothschild Group is building out its private banking business in the region, adding headcount to its advisory team in Hong Kong and potentially setting up an office in Singapore.

This falls in line with a planned expansion in its asset management group, with the firm actively seeking a partner in Asia to help boost its regional AUM by over a third.

EdR has had a representative office in Hong Kong since 1992, but only received its private banking licence in 2011. It spent the next two years adding middle- and back-office employees, as well as some risk management professionals and portfolio managers.

And now the firm is focused on its front office, with recently appointed Asia private banking CEO Monique Chan tasked with hiring relationship managers in Hong Kong. There are currently 70 staff in Hong Kong across both its private bank and asset management divisions.

Christophe de Backer, the firm’s Geneva-based CEO, tells AsianInvestor on a recent trip to Hong Kong that if EdR “hired 10 [private banking sales staff] in the next 12 months, we would be very happy”.

“It has taken two years to invest to make sure this platform is solid. And we have to hire fast – we’re aggressive on our hiring target,” de Backer says. Still, he stressed the firm will be cautious when adding relationship managers. “We don’t hire for the sake of hiring.”

Globally, the firm aims to raise SFr40 billion ($44 billion) by 2016 in both its private banking and asset management groups, with De Backer noting that Asia-sourced money will undoubtedly account for a significant portion of this figure.

EdR will focus on high-net-worth and ultra-high-net-worth individuals as well as institutional investors in Hong Kong and China.

The private banking licence it received in 2011 allows the firm to offer advisory and discretionary services in Hong Kong, although EdR will focus more on its advisory capabilities.

Chan notes that succession planning is becoming increasingly important for wealthy Asians, particularly Chinese, and many are turning to private banks for advisory. More than 70% of Asian investors are over 55 and are focused on transferring wealth to the next generation, she adds.

Chan, who joined EdR in July, was previously chief executive of HSBC’s private bank in Hong Kong. She spent 15 years at HSBC. Prior to that she worked at Standard Chartered and Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

The firm is considering opening an office in Singapore further down the line, De Backer adds.

“Hong Kong is the centre [of our focus] for now as we can cover the rest of Asia from here, but we’re also exploring Singapore,” De Backer says. “In Asia, there are two places you need to have platforms. The first, of course, is Hong Kong, and the second is Singapore.”

This will eventually involve replicating the firm’s private banking services in the Lion City, although De Backer emphasises that for now, the focus is Hong Kong.

De Backer joined the firm in 2012 after 22 years at HSBC in Paris, most recently as its France CEO. He held a number of positions in its equity capital markets division.

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