China private banking specialist Alfred Tsai is set to join BNP Paribas wealth management as its new market head for China after quitting Julius Baer, AsianInvestor understands.

Tsai will be tasked with growing BNP Paribas’ China business and platform out of Hong Kong in what is a key market for the firm. It is understood he will join in mid-October, having left Julius Baer in mid-July.

In January this year BNP Paribas announced it would be restructuring its regional wealth management business to focus on countries where it sees greatest market potential.

It said each country/region would have its own market head: Serge Janowski for Hong Kong; Henry Pang for Taiwan; Stephane Honig for India, including non-resident Indians; Serge Forti for Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia; and Eric Morin for other Asian markets, including South Korea, the Philippines and Thailand.

At the time BNP Paribas said it was looking for a market head for China – a gap Tsai is set to fill from next month.

Tsai has covered China private banking out of Hong Kong for four banks since 1998. He was working as managing director and senior relationship manager (China focus) for Julius Baer from mid-2009 to mid-2011.

Previously he spent just a year in Merrill Lynch’s private banking investments group during a period when the firm was being bought by Bank of America. Prior to that he spent three years as China market head for Credit Suisse private banking.

Tsai began his career in 1982 with Citibank, working in a treasury function within the investment bank before joining UBS in 1996 in a similar function. He transitioned into UBS Wealth Management in 1998 as one of the firm’s pioneering private bankers for China.

BNP Paribas WM’s regional restructuring came after Thierry Dana relinquished charge as North Asia CEO after less than 18 months. He had replaced Claude Haberer, who was reassigned to head key clients and subsequently announced he would be leaving the bank earlier this year.

Both Dana and Haberer reported to Serge Forti, who was appointed CEO of BNP Paribas Wealth Management for Asia-Pacific at the end of 2008. Dana moved to Geneva to join its international European unit.

All market heads report to Mignonne Cheng, who took over as chairman and CEO of wealth management for Asia-Pacific last September.

A spokeswoman for Julius Baer confirmed that Tsai had left and said he would be replaced, but that no candidate had been appointed as yet.

Florence Chou, who works in communications for BNP Paribas wealth management, failed to respond to emails and phone messages seeking confirmation. When finally tracked down, she replied only: “No comment.”

Paris-based BNP Paribas launched a private banking business in Shanghai in 2006 targeting clients with $1 million in investable assets. It is headed by James Wang. BNP bought a 19.2% stake in Nanjing City Commercial Bank near Shanghai for $87 million in October 2005.