Switzerland’s Union Bancaire Privee has poached Joerg Hansen from DBS Private Bank to run the Singapore branch of its new regional multi-family office (MFO) platform, which was set up in May.

He starts in the role today, bolstering the team following the hires of Cheryl Ng last month, also from DBS, and Ong Iu-Jin in May as head of the MFO business. Ong is now in Singapore but will relocate to Hong Kong in the coming months. 

Hansen was a senior vice president at the Singaporean bank, where he covered ultra-high-net-worth individuals from Eastern/Central Europe, Russia and Central Asia as well as Turkey and Greece. Before joining DBS in May 2012, he had worked for Credit Suisse for four years and Julius Baer prior to that. 

Also based in Singapore, Ng started in mid-July as an assistant relationship manager for UBP's MFO platform. She was previously an assistant RM in DBS's international and external asset manager business, and has also worked for United Overseas Bank and consulting firm EY.

DBS said both Hansen and Ng have been replaced, but declined to provide names of their successors.

There is a growing trend in Asia for setting up MFOs or external asset managers (EAMs). This is driven partly by the view that wealthy individuals need service providers that are more aligned with their interests than, for example, private banks. Another factor is that senior private bankers are increasingly looking to move away from an industry suffering from much-reduced profitability and greater regulatory pressures following the 2008 financial crisis.

However, start-up MFOs and EAMs face a number of challenges, which include finding suitable staff and lacking the marketing budget and brand strength of big, established firms, not to mention their in-house capabilities. 

UBP backing an MFO to some degree overcomes the latter two hurdles, but may raise the concern of whether it is truly independent and aligned with families' interests.

But the firm's MFO platform is entirely open architecture, said Stephan Repkow, Asia chief executive of private banking. Clients using it can choose any broker, for example, and have flexibility over their pick of custodian; they are not restricted to UBP's own platform. 

UBP, being family-owned, is well aligned with family office independence, added Repkow, such as in the form of its unconstrained and unbiased investment approach.

Developing an MFO capability with the hire of high-calibre RMs such as Hansen is central to UBP's strategy to build a strong private banking franchise in Asia, he noted. “This is definitely an area we will keep on investing in.”

Meanwhile, UBP moved into a new office in Hong Kong last month, recently added two relationship managers in Singapore and is working on strengthening its Greater China coverage, as reported.

Li Jian and Tan Ee-Ling both joined recently in Singapore, the former as a senior relationship manager from EFG Bank, and the latter as an assistant RM from Julius Baer. Four more RMs are due to join soon in Hong Kong and two more in the Lion City.

The new Hong Kong office in Exchange Square Two in Central has space for 18 on the private banking side. The staff is expected to grow from six today to 10 by the end of the summer, said Repkow.