In a surprise move, the wealth management division of UBS has poached Vinay Gandhi from J.P. Morgan private bank, just weeks after the US bank hired him from the private wealth management team of Deutsche Bank.

Gandhi joins UBS as a managing director and country team head, India International Asia. He will report to Andreas Reber, regional market manager of India Indochina and global investors APAC. Gandhi brings with him nearly two decades of banking experience and will head a team of 30 bankers, spread across Singapore and Hong Kong. He will continue to be based in Singapore.

Gandhi started his new job with UBS on January 11. The timing is interesting because it suggests UBS and J.P. Morgan were able to come to some arrangement with respect to Gandhi's gardening leave, which otherwise typically runs up to 90 days. Gandhi left the wealth management team at Deutsche last year to join J.P. Morgan private bank and he is known to have started at the US bank in early November.

It is possible that J.P. Morgan decided to waive the gardening leave requirement, given how short a time he had worked at the bank. Alternatively, UBS may have "bought out" Gandhi's gardening leave as it wanted him to make an early start. Neither J.P. Morgan nor UBS had any comment on the matter. 

At J.P. Morgan, Gandhi's remit was to cover ultra-high-net-worth Indian clients across the world. So far, no-one has been named to replace him, said sources close to the development.

Before he joined J.P. Morgan, Gandhi was head of South Asia for private wealth management at Deutsche Bank in Singapore, responsible for the coverage of non-resident Indians (NRI) in Asia-Pacific and the Middle East. He has also worked at Citi private bank and Commerzbank Private Banking Singapore.

At UBS, Gandhi fills a vacancy created by the departure of Srinivas (Srini) Siripurapu in August last year. Siripurapu left UBS to become head of Southeast Asia and South Asia for Barclays Wealth, the wealth management division of Barclays. He took with him a team of nine UBS private bankers.

UBS has also had to field more recent departures. When Siripurapu left in August, UBS announced that his position would be filled by Vikram Malhotra. But Malhotra has also since departed the bank. And earlier this week, Lee Boon Keng, chief investment strategist for UBS wealth management left for Julius Baer.

"UBS is committed to developing the India market, which represents enormous potential with the rise of wealth creation in the region," said Christine Ong, chief executive officer for UBS wealth management in Singapore, in a written statement commenting on Gandhi's hire.

In line with the India focus, UBS announced on Monday that Manisha Girotra will serve as chief executive officer and country head for India, to help the bank develop its India strategy and work with the government and regulators.

Private banks are hiring across Asia. Asians are getting richer as their businesses grow. Further, their portfolios have suffered less due to the financial crisis than their counterparts in the western world and they are becoming more open to seeking investment advice from traditional wealth managers. This has led boutique private banks such as Julius Baer and Clariden Leu to increase their Asia coverage, sometimes poaching teams from their larger rivals to kick-start their operations. But bulge-bracket firms such as Citi and UBS are also hiring, not only for replacements but to strengthen their offering.