The building and rebuilding of Julius Baer
Pure-play Swiss private bank Julius Baer has had to reconfigure its business model for the 2020s. Chief executive Philipp Rickenbacher talks to Euromoney about why scale and nurturing talent are key to the long-term success of a firm that does just one thing and one thing well: serving wealthy private clients.
Philipp Rickenbacher strides into the meeting room – a small, clinical pod of a space in Julius Baer’s Zurich headquarters with frosted windows that wouldn’t look out of place in a science fiction movie – and smiles intensely.
He doesn’t look or talk like a typical Swiss private banker and there’s little in the way of small talk. He listens very well – it is an industry prerequisite – but each question is followed by a torrent of fact and opinion that starts and ends just as abruptly.
This makes sense. Rickenbacher didn’t set out to be a private banker. After graduating with a degree in biotechnology from ETH Zurich, he spent seven years at McKinsey before joining Julius Baer in 2004. He ran the advisory solutions, then its intermediaries and global custody teams, before being named chief executive in 2019.
So, what is someone who trained as a scientist doing in wealth management at all, let alone running the world’s largest pure-play private bank by assets under management (AuM)?
Rickenbacher laughs at the question.