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Swiss Bank group Julius Baer launches bank in India

Economic Times:  September, 2015

Mumbai: Swiss banking group Julius Baer has finally set up shop in India, almost three years after acquiring DSP Merrill Lynch's domestic wealth management business. The launch was deferred on account of a delay in approvals from a bevy of regulators and 'complications' in the deal, said the firm's officials.

"We had to get approvals from several regulators. Apart from the RBI and Sebi, we also had to get clearance from the Competition Commission of India as the deal between DSP Merrill and Julius Baer was above a certain threshold level," said Atul Singh, MD & CEO-India of Julius Baer, one of the oldest wealth managers in the world. The blueribbon Swiss bank had acquired Merrill Lynch's India wealth assets as part of a global deal between the two firms in 2012. At the time of the deal, Merrill Lynch was the largest wealth advisor managing domestic assets worth Rs 25,000 crore.

Thomas Meier, member of executive board and Asia-Pacific head, Bank Julius Baer conceded there were complications. "We knew India was going to be a challenge as we did not have an on-shore presence at the time of the deal; the transfer of assets only happened after we set up onshore facilities".

Julius Baer is coming to India at a time when homegrown wealth managers like IIFL, Kotak Wealth, Edelweiss, ASK Wealth and Motilal Oswal Financial Services have managed to corner the HNI market share often at the cost of global wealth managers like RBS, Barclays, HSBC, Citi and Deutsche Bank. Many of these domestic wealth managers wield assets in excess of Rs 50,000 crore.

"We've to build base on our inner strengths. We cannot copy global investment strategies and implant them here. We need to do this the Indian way," Meier said.

Julius Baer intends to keep $5 million as threshold levels for investors to walk in. "But if an investor wants to try us out with $2 million initially, we would accept that mandate also," Meier added. The banker intends to target newage entrepreneurs, "cashed-out businessmen" and old-riches to increase their asset base.