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Julius Baer Sees Brexit As Chance To Go Shopping In UK - Report

Tom Burroughes, Group Editor, London, 9 March 2017

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The CEO of the Swiss bank reportedly sees Brexit as an opportunity to make acquisitions.

Julius Baer sees the UK’s departure from the European Union as a chance to buy a rival in the UK, the Financial Times has quoted the private bank’s chief executive, Boris Collardi, as saying. The Zurich-listed bank later confirmed the comments to WealthBriefing.

The bank, with assets under management of SFr333.6 billion, already has more than 200 staff in the UK. It was planning to build a European hub there before the UK voted last year to quit the EU.

“If a UK bank became a seller (of its private bank) at some stage and approached us, probably we would look at it, on the basis it would be a contrarian move at a moment when UK assets were cheap,” Collardi told the FT. “And I’m sure that in five years’ time, everybody would say, maybe it was not such a bad transaction."

The bank, which is also a substantial player in Asia – a region it has called its second home market – has expanded its presence in Europe. In 2009 it bought ING’s Swiss private bank and in 2012 acquired Merrill Lynch’s non-US wealth management business; it has also agreed to buy the private banking assets of Israel’s Bank Leumi. Such activity is part of a broader pattern of M&A activity in global wealth management, as firms seeking economies of scale have taken advantage of how some banks have decided to get out of markets where they are unprofitable or because they needed to sell to raise cash immediately after the global financial crisis.

The FT report on Collardi’s comments said that despite its enthusiasm for a UK acquisition, Julius Baer has paused plans for a European hub there because it believes Brexit will dent the UK’s economic growth, and that “foreigners will feel a little bit less welcome”.

He was also quoted as saying opportunities for acquisitions in Asia are more promising.

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