Julius Baer: What’s behind Boris Collardi’s surprise move to Pictet?

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By:
Helen Avery
Published on:

In wealth management circles, the shock isn’t so much that Collardi has moved – rather, it’s the rival he has moved to.

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Boris Collardi leaves Julius Baer for Pictet

What a difference a week makes. Last Monday, Boris Collardi was delivering the news that Julius Baer, the company of which he was at the helm, had seen its assets rise 17% this year and hit a record SFr393 billion ($397 billion).

This Monday, he announced he would be leaving to join rival Pictet.

To many of those in the industry there was no signal that Collardi was intending to leave – but one banker points out that when Julius Baer appointed a new deputy CEO in September alarm bells did start to sound.

Did it come as a surprise to Julius Baer’s board? Unlikely – there had always been a mild concern among Julius Baer’s upper echelons that, given his drive, Collardi could be tempted away by a new challenge. That challenge, many in the Swiss market believed, would likely be to run Credit Suisse or UBS down the line – not Pictet, which rarely hires from outside.

There, Collardi has been named as co-head of global wealth management, starting his new position in mid-2018. He’ll be sharing his new role there with Rémy Best, who has been with Pictet since 2003.


Julius Baer’s loss is Pictet’s gain, and if it’s a challenge Collardi wants, then Pictet is likely to provide him with one 

Why the move? Was it simply that Collardi had seen his strategy play out at Julius Baer, and was looking for a new challenge? It could well be. Many of his intentions when he became CEO at just 35 years of age in 2009 had come to fruition.

From 2012, Collardi boldly bought Merrill Lynch’s international wealth management business for a song, and then fully embraced a trajectory that would turn, in his words, a “medium Swiss bank” into a fully fledged international private bank.

European expansion followed with the acquisition of Bank Leumi’s Swiss and Luxembourg businesses in 2014, and then last year Julius Baer added Commerzbank’s Luxembourg business and a majority stake in Italian asset manager Kairos.

Collardi has also pushed aggressively in Asia, hiring Jimmy Lee out of Credit Suisse to expand Julius Baer’s business there. Collardi had been vocal about his expectations that within five years, Switzerland might represent just 40% of all Baer’s assets, with Europe and Asia representing another 40%.

And last year, Collardi also put the finishing touches on Julius Baer’s new advisory model – not dissimilar to that of UBS – which he said would smooth out the revenue streams and ensure that clients were receiving more consistent and high-quality advice. Already 45% of Julius Baer’s assets under management were mandated by February this year – that is up from 30% in 2015 – with the goal of hitting 100%.

Proud

Walking away from Julius Baer, the previously staid private bank that took a gamble on such a young leader in the midst of a financial crisis, Collardi can be satisfied that he did the company proud.

At the end of 2009, the bank had SFr150 billion in private banking assets, of which 80% were booked in Switzerland. Those assets have more than doubled, making Julius Baer the third-largest Swiss private bank, as well as being a solid global player with a platform ready to weather the future.

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Bernhard Hodler, Julius Baer

It’s a blow for Julius Baer undoubtedly – Collardi is a charismatic leader as well as a good one – and the Swiss bank’s stock price dropped on Monday on the news. For now he will be replaced by Bernhard Hodler, the recently named deputy CEO and the bank’s former chief risk officer, while the board starts “an evaluation process for the long-term leadership of the group”

Collardi recently made some notable changes to the management structure of Julius Baer, reorganizing it into five markets – Switzerland, Europe, Asia, Latin America and emerging markets – each with separate leadership.

Collardi told Euromoney in July: “They have the independence to make their own decisions. Each region has its own idiosyncrasies, so we have to move towards a more regional model.”

However, Julius Baer’s loss is Pictet’s gain, and if it’s a challenge Collardi wants, then Pictet is likely to provide him with one.

Pictet is slightly bigger than Julius Baer with a reported SFr462 billion in assets under management at the end of 2016, and has been a darling of the Swiss private banking industry – albeit in Geneva rather than Zurich – for more than two centuries.

In recent years, however, Pictet has floundered somewhat and has not taken advantage of the Asia wealth boom like its peers. Pictet manages just $36 billion in assets in that region.

At his new bank, Collardi is unlikely to alter his view of what makes private banking work – a strategy that helped earn Julius Baer Euromoney’s award for the world’s best bank for wealth management in July 2017.

“We’ve been faithful to the same strategy we have always – that of a pure-play wealth manager – which has created confidence in our clients,” he said.