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March 12, 2014updated 04 Apr 2017 2:26pm

Exclusive: Safra Sarasin swoops on Bank of Singapore to hire Indian client team

In one of the biggest team moves in Asian private banking of late, J. Safra Sarasin has lured a total of 12 people from Bank of Singapore to specialise in the $1 trillion Indian non-resident (NRI) sector.

By John Evans

In one of the biggest team moves in Asian private banking of late, J. Safra Sarasin has lured a total of 12 people from Bank of Singapore to specialise in the $1 trillion Indian non-resident (NRI) sector.

Confirmation of its hires by the Swiss private bank follow several weeks of speculation in Hong Kong and Singapore that BoS was going to be hit by a major walkout of staff, possibly amounting to 50 people or more.

The most senior of the defectors is Patri Bhimasena Rao, who joins Sarasin as a managing director in the newly created role of market head, Non-Resident Indian clients at Sarasin. Another senior hire in the role of managing director is Bhakti Mathur. At BoS, Rao was a managing director and head of North Asia, while Ms Mathur was executive director, India Desk.

Enid Yip, CEO for Asia at Safra Sarasin, in the statement on the hires, said Rao and Mathur "are deeply respected private banking industry veterans, and Rao also has strong entrepreneurial skills which reflect the heritage of our bank."

Apart from the defections to Sarasin, BoS has been hit by the recent departure of Yelandur N Nagendra, the alternate chief executive of the Hong Kong branch and global marketing head of the Bank of Singapore (BoS) India Sub-Continent business. It is understood he will be accompanied by Hena Hoda, a senior member of his team.

It is not clear what the future plans of the two are, although they are described as "senior talents" who will have little trouble finding top jobs elsewhere in the wealth industry.

In firefighting the impact of the defections, BoS has disclosed a number appointment of senior private banking executives to replace the departees.

BoS has meanwhile appointed Nikhil Advani as market head for South East Asia to lead its NRI team, based in Singapore. "We are confident that under his leadership, Bank of Singapore will amply meet the needs of our NRI clientele in South East Asia and the India Sub-Continent," Renato de Guzman, BoS CEO declared.

At the same time, BoS appointed Sanjeev Sharma as executive director/team head.

The defections represent one of the largest team moves since 70 front and back office people jumped ship from Coutts-RBS Singapore in 2009 to join Swiss private banking BSI, part of Generali.

The departures are regarded as a blow to BoS, which has been competing hard to catch rival DBS in Singapore. The latter is understood to be lead bidder for the Asian regional private banking business of Societe Generale, with its $15 billion of client assets. DBS itself already has about $46 billion under management.

It is not clear if the team going to Sarasin will take significant client assets with them, as is usual with senior personnel moves.BoS itself was created in 2010 when parent OCBC acquired ING Asia Private Bank when the Dutch group sold non-core assets in the wake of the global financial crisis.

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