Geneva-based Union Bancaire Privée has hired the founder and former head of a family office to set up a multi-family office with a presence in Hong Kong and Singapore.

Ong Iu-Jin started in the role on May 19 and will be working on building a team across both locations. As head of multi-family office for Asia, he reports to Stephan Repkow, Asia chief executive at UBP, and will move to the firm’s office in Hong Kong in August.

In 2012, Ong sold his stake in Deauville Private Office, which he set up in Singapore in 2008 to oversee his family’s wealth, but which ultimately became an MFO.

Since then he had been exploring opportunities for setting up another business, and has been talking to UBP for some time. Before setting up Deauville, Ong was a relationship manager at Bank Julius Baer.

Other private banks have been putting in place or ramping up family office offerings in Asia in recent years, including the likes of Citi, Coutts, Credit Suisse and UBS. They face a number of challenges attracting clients.

For one thing, there is debate in the industry over whether the MFO model is well suited to the region. Some, such as Grégoire Imfeld of Pictet, argue that a desire for secrecy, among other things, prevents families from wanting to use such service providers.

That said, others – including David Reymond of Julius Baer – take a different view, suggesting that outsourcing certain functions to an MFO makes sense in terms of operational efficiency.

Another issue noted by some is that Asian private clients tend to be very price-sensitive, making fee negotiations relatively tough in the region.