What it takes to get on Julius Baer’s product shelf

Kenneth Ho explains the product selection process and underlines the importance of new hire Mark Matthews. The firm also grabs a team of Greater China client advisers from UBS.
What it takes to get on Julius Baer’s product shelf

Julius Baer’s Asia-Pacific head of products, Kenneth Ho, has underlined the importance of Mark Matthews’ recent capture from Macquarie as its new head of regional research.

Matthews had been a division director focused on strategies for Macquarie based in Hong Kong, but this week started in his new role with the Swiss private bank after relocating to Singapore.

He has effectively been hired to replace CIO Venkatraman Anantha-Nageswaran (Dr Van) within the firm’s investment solutions group (ISG). Dr Van leaves Julius Baer at the end of this month but will continue to lend his market knowledge to the group as an external adviser.

ISG comprises the firm’s funds and structured products platforms, and features teams covering discretionary management, investment advisory, wealth and tax planning, foreign exchange and research. In Asia it is understood to comprise of between 30 and 50 staff.

Ho points out that the product selection process begins with Matthews. “For me, it’s a whole series of dominos, and the first domino is what our research head is saying,” he states.

“He might want us to load up on offshore RMB or on agricultural products, so we would sit down with the relevant teams and work out the best trading ideas for the short term, and how we might play it over the long term via structured products or funds.

“Once we decide what the macro focuses are in terms of countries, asset classes and product focus, then we decide which asset managers are best for which particular area.”

Asked how his team picks products for its shelf, Ho replies: “We look at one-year, three-year and five-year performance, who has the best managers, who has been there the longest, who is the most stable and which are the least volatile.”

Typically, he says, there is a four- to eight-week due diligence process for a fund to get onto Julius Baer’s platform, which he estimates consists of 3,500 products globally.

In Asia, the firm has a six-strong fund solutions team just looking at funds either based in Asia or which cover Asia. He lists their order of focus as: 1) performance; 2) time period of performance; and 3) volatility.

Ho stresses the latter above all: “Picking the right sectors and products, that’s all about making money. But this whole due diligence process and looking at volatility, that’s about capital preservation and that is something we value very highly.”

ISG has become a key area of focus for Julius Baer after the firm separated its private banking and asset management businesses in September 2009.

On May 20 this year, Julius Baer announced the appointment of Hans Lauber as global head of ISG, based in Zurich. Lauber, who is due to take up his role in September, was previously CIO of Winterthur Group and co-founder and CEO of Arecon Asset Management in Zurich.

Lauber was hired to succeed Yves Robert-Charrue, who just this month started as Switzerland CEO after Julius Baer moved to combine its Swiss private client business, which thus far has been managed regionally, into a single market region.

As well as his role as CIO, Dr Van was also co-head of ISG in Singapore together with Lee Boon Keng, who now assumes sole responsibility for the investment solutions group in the city-state.

Ho says that Dr Van’s move had been in the pipeline for some time: “He was our chief voice for investment in Asia, and it took me a while to find what I believe to be the perfect person in Mark Matthews.”

Separately, Julius Baer has hired a team of Greater China client advisers from UBS based in Singapore, AsianInvestor understands. The team includes Brandon Lim, Wen-cheng Chen and Tony Fu, plus assistants. The trio left UBS in the city-state in staggered fashion earlier this year.

Their starting date is uncertain, but it is thought these are new roles reporting to David Lim, Julius Baer’s recently appointed Singapore CEO. A spokeswoman for Julius Baer in Singapore declined to comment, while UBS confirmed only that Lim, Chen and Fu had left.

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