Syz Asset Management pulls out of Asia

Swiss private bank Syz has called time on its asset management business in the region, closing its Hong Kong office a decade after setting it up.
Syz Asset Management pulls out of Asia

Geneva-based private bank Syz has shut down its office in Hong Kong, marking an end to its asset management business in Asia, 10 years after it set up in the city, AsianInvestor can reveal.

“Syz Asset Management has decided to centre its activities in Geneva and to concentrate on continental European markets,” a spokesman for the bank told AsianInvestor by email. As a consequence, the Hong Kong office closed at the end of 2016, he added.

The firm had not been offering its wealth management services in the region.

Syz's exit marks another casualty of the tough environment for the investment industry, coming a month after fellow Swiss asset and wealth manager Edmond de Rothschild (EdR) said it was shutting its Hong Kong operation.

Asset and wealth management firms that lack scale to cope with growing competition, cost and and regulatory pressures are likely to struggle, note industry observers. Justin Ong, Asia-Pacific leader of the asset and wealth management practice at consultancy PwC, had said at the time that EdR's withdrawal was “just the tip of the iceberg”.

Syz AM had €15.9 billion ($16.8 billion) under management as of June 30, 2016, representing almost half of the bank's €36 billion in total AUM.

The firm's range of Oyster funds – Luxembourg-domiciled Ucits products – will no longer be sold in Hong Kong in their current form, but clients will be serviced out of Geneva, noted the spokesman. For key accounts and global consultants, there is a dedicated team under the oversight of Nico Cacciabue, he said.

Suzanna Wong, Syz AM's head of Asia sales, left when the office closed and yesterday started a new role at Swiss firm Vontobel Asset Management as head of intermediary sales for Asia, as reported.

As of October 2014 there had been a total of five sales staff in Syz's Hong Kong office, including Wong. The Syz spokesman declined to comment on the headcount at the time of the closure.

The move follows Syz AM's opening of an office in Munich last month.

The firm had set up its Asian operations in January 2007 by opening the Hong Kong branch. As recently as October 2014, Eric Syz, majority shareholder and chief executive, told AsianInvestor the firm was looking to hire investment staff and mulling opening an office in Singapore and potentially later in Japan.

Other recent examples of retrenchment and consolidation in the investment industry include ABN Amro's sale of its Asian private bank to LGT, Barclays offloading its regional wealth business to Singapore’s OCBC and DBS buying ANZ's retail and wealth operations in Asia. 

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