Julius Baer sees Brexit bet pay off as UK business grows

EDINBURGH (Reuters) - Swiss private bank Julius Baer BAER.S is benefiting from steady growth of wealth creation in Britain and its bet that Brexit is not a long-term threat to its business, the firm's UK chief executive said.

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Swiss private bank Julius Baer is seen at the bank's headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland, February 1, 2017. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/File Photo

Baer, which manages assets of 388 billion Swiss francs ($390.50 billion) globally, has added more UK clients this year than in the past two combined as rival fund firms grapple with preparing for Brexit, David Durlacher, Julius Baer International’s CEO, told Reuters.

He declined to specify further. The firm does not provide a country-by-country breakdown of its assets under management.

Growth was supported by Baer’s decision to open regional UK offices for the first time earlier this year in Manchester and Leeds, as well as a regional head office in Edinburgh, where it now has 10 employees, six of them relationship managers.

Britain’s rich have accumulated wealth strongly in the past two years and London has more sterling billionaires than any other city in the world, according to The Times Rich List.

Baer has also benefited from other wealth management businesses, such as that of UBS, either restructuring or closing units ahead of Brexit.

“Part of (our success) is to do with Brexit, because we have seen the opportunity in a wealth management industry that is retreating or restructuring to deal with (it),” he said.

It remains unclear what Brexit will mean for Britain’s financial services industry as Prime Minister Theresa May tries to reach a deal with Brussels before exit day on March 29, 2019.

Some financial services providers have opened offices or beefed up their operations in other EU member states.

Durlacher said Britain had a long track record of coping with economic shocks.

“This is not just the experience of past years, the ability of an economy to bounce back, but actually it has been the pattern of generations. The same level of entrepreneurial spirit has existed since the industrial revolution,” he said.


Britain’s role as a major provider of financial services provider will continue after Brexit, Durlacher predicted.

“We have a number of clients who see the UK as an important financial centre, and we have seen very strong growth despite Brexit and the uncertainties of the outcome,” he said.

Britain would continue to play a leading role in financial regulation in Europe, whatever the outcome of Brexit, and the country should resist the temptation to water down its rules.

“There is always a balance between attractiveness and robustness, but the UK has led a principled argument that other countries around Europe have listened to and adopted.”

Durlacher, who spoke to Reuters while visiting clients in Britain’s second-biggest financial hub Edinburgh on Wednesday, said there was “no immediate threat” of another Scottish independence referendum.

But if Scotland, where voters are unhappy about Brexit, were to split from the UK, Julius Baer was there for the long term.

“Should it choose to leave the UK, we are still committed to Scotland. Our lens looks beyond short-term political change and looks at real economic adaptability of enterprise in Scotland and that is one that I believe has a very strong fundamental.”

Growth of new businesses in Edinburgh and Glasgow per 1,000 population was 18.4 percent and 17 percent respectively from January 2017 to August 2018, according to data manager Inform Direct, which compiles official statistics.

That compared with 15 percent in Britain as a whole.

(This version of the story corrects title of Durlacher)

Reporting by Elisabeth O’Leary; Editing by William Schomberg and David Evans