Banking on the overall wealth creation prospects and optimism in the country, Swiss wealth management group Julius Baer is embarking on a five-year transformation strategy in India, starting this year. Under this strategy, the firm intends to triple its assets under management (AUM), more than double the number of clients and spread its wings to newer cities, to further consolidate its market share.
“We are embarking on a five-year business transformation strategy. We have hired a new CEO — Umang Papneja — and we would be investing significantly in people, distribution, operations, infrastructure, technology, product, premises, branding and marketing,” Rahul Malhotra, head-private banking, global India and developed markets at Bank Julius Baer, told FE in an interview.
“During this five-year period, we want to more than double our relationship manager (RM) headcount. In terms of clients, we want to more than double the number we are at right now. We want to triple our real assets,” Malhotra said.
In July, the private bank appointed Umang Papneja as its CEO for India operations, effective August 1, 2022. He takes over from Ashish Gumashta, who was elevated as the executive chairman at Julius Baer India.
According to an earlier report by Asian Private Banker, Julius Baer India’s AUM was pegged at $23.25 billion for 2021, ranking the firm in the seventh position among the private banking and wealth management firms in the country. Its AUM had registered a 32.86% growth from $17.5 billion recorded in 2020. In 2021, the firm was ranked 17th, with a total RM headcount of 58 and fourth in terms of AUM per RM at $400.86 million, the report said.
The firm’s real assets under custody comprise a significant portion of its AUM, he said, but did not elaborate.
“We are doing this because we believe in this whole wealth creation that is taking place in India, and that, to my mind, is at its initial stages,” he said, without divulging the investments the firm intends to make.
“The story is of wealth creation.”
Further, the firm — which is currently present in six Indian cities — intends to expand to more than 10 cities under its transformation strategy, which starts this year. While many of the new locales are being finalised, to begin with, Julius Baer intends to set up offices in Pune and Ahmedabad.
“We are seeing wealth creation in India is not limited to tier 1 cities. Wealth creation is now taking place on a pan-India basis.”
At present, the firm has offices in Mumbai, New Delhi, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Kolkata.
Julius Baer has an onshore business in India (a rupee platform catering to the rupee domestic needs of residents) and a non-resident Indian (NRI) business that caters to the needs of Indians staying outside the country.
“The people who are looking to invest offshore are looking at the capital being a ‘nest egg,’” Malhotra said.
It generally banks with ultra high net worth individuals who have investable assets of Rs 25-100 crore, even though a customer could start an account with Rs10 crore.
On the general economic scenario in the country, he is of the opinion that there is a lot of “optimism”.
“We clearly have a stable government on the ground. We don’t have the same issues that the world is facing such as high inflation and high interest rates, and the cooling of oil prices is significantly helping the country.”
“I believe the worst is behind us, unless there is another black swan event, like another war or something like that,” he added.