Merrill acts after big client trading
HSBC reports record
private banking quarter…
Vontobel sets up
independent wealth arm…
EFG plans Asian
Retirement assets growth


Merrill acts after big client trading losses

Merrill Lynch has carried out a number of personnel changes in its
international wealth management unit, removing two New York-based
executives and a number of insurance and trust co-ordinators amid a
lawsuit against three Latin American investors that led to a near
$80 million write-down in its first-quarter financial

Ricardo Morean, head of Merrill Lynch’s New York International
Complex and head of Latin America ultra-high-net-worth strategy,
and Bob Hartmann, head of the midtown international office, are no
longer in their jobs.

Merrill had sued three members of the prominent Latino Nasser
family, after they had allegedly lost more than $78 million on
speculative trading using their investment accounts at the US
brokerage. The case, filed in April at the Supreme Court of the
State of New York, is pending.

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Merrill claims that the Nassers have refused, neglected and failed
to satisfy their indebtedness to it despite demands to be paid

Morean, named to his most recent post in September, oversaw the
five global wealth management international offices in New York,
California and Israel. As former head of Latin American’s
ultra-high-net-worth strategy, he also oversaw plans to expand the
Latin American client segment and was in charge of the trust group
that supports the divisional client base.

Brazil’s high-profile banking family, the Safras, has stressed that
it was not involved with the Nasser lawsuit.


HSBC reports record private banking quarter

HSBC Private Bank made a record profit during the first quarter,
after client inflows into the division rose on the year-ago

HSBC said that it had benefited from its differentiated capital
strength in the current troubled environment and as a consequence,
higher deposits and investment performance fees helped to drive a
record quarterly profit.

“The outlook for the rest of the year remains unusually difficult
to foresee in the current environment,” said Stephen Green, HSBC
group chairman. The group took a $3.2 billion hit from its exposure
to the US subprime housing market, lower than some analysts were


Vontobel sets up independent wealth arm

The Vontobel Group has established an independent wealth management
company – VT Wealth Management AG – to serve Swiss and
international private clients as part of its external asset manager

The new company’s core competencies include asset management and
investment advisory, as well as wealth consolidation. Vontobel
holds a 51 percent stake in VT Wealth Management AG and 49 percent
is held by the management.

The new unit “will work together with proven external partners to
offer its clients holistic solutions for long-term asset growth,
with relationship managers using their entrepreneurial freedom when
selecting products and services to benefit clients,” its CEO Thomas
Fedier, formerly with the Baer Group, said.


EFG plans Asian acquisition

EFG International is planning to make at least two acquisitions in
Asia this year in order to build its presence in the region in
initiatives that will include building its advisory

Albert Chiu, EFG’s deputy chief executive for the Asia Pacific
Region said the bank is looking to increase its private bankers to
between 180 and 200 by the year-end from 120 currently. The banker
didn’t identify his acquisition targets, beyond saying one was in
North Asia.


Retirement assets growth slows

US retirement assets rose by $1.1 trillion in 2007 to $17.6
trillion, but failed to match the growth of previous years, the
Investment Company Institute reported.

The 7 percent increase, which reflects contributions and asset
appreciation, lagged the growth in retirement assets from 2005 to
2006, when they grew by $1.7 trillion, a near 12 percent

Investors placed about $176 billion into mutual funds through
individual retirement accounts and defined-contribution plans in
the first three quarters of 2007, more than they had invested by
the same means in all of 2006. So the lower year-over-year growth
rate was largely due to last year’s poor market performance.


New family office body formed

A new group, the Family Office Association (FOA) has been formed in
the US to help ultra-high-net-worth individuals and families. It
plans to educate advisers and suppliers to improve their level of
service and performance.

The association plans to expand to London and other international
wealth centres like Singapore and Dubai in the future.

Its mission is to offer a broader spectrum of resources,
connections, education, and advisory services for “exceptionally
successful” individuals, families, foundations, family offices, and
family firms around the world to ensure sustainable companies and
family legacies for future generations to come, according to AJ
Robles, its founder and chief executive.

In addition to participating in its meetings and educational
events, members can also obtain discounts and special offers for
services and products negotiated through FOA partnerships and


Fortis sets new private banking lineup

Fortis Private Banking has announced the planned management
structure and senior appointments at the future combined private
bank, following its absorption of ABN AMRO’s private banking
operations. Former ABN personnel account for 10 of the 17
management board positions, reflecting ABN’s larger private banking

ABN man Chris Vogelzang becomes chief executive of Fortis Global
Private Banking. ABN executives taking other key roles include
Barend Janssens, who will head Fortis’ private banking operations
in Asia. In the UK, Philip Howell, a Fortis executive, becomes
responsible for the UK, Channel Islands, Italy, Spain, Gibraltar
and Monaco.

Other appointments include:

• Jos ter Avest as chief administrative officer (from

• Rüdiger von Wedel as chief commercial officer and head of
products and solutions (from ABN);

• Tom Vanden Borre as chief financial officer (from

• John Smeets as chief risk officer (from Fortis);

• Daniël de Clerck as chief operating officer (from

• Pim van den Heuvel as head of private wealth management
global private banking (from Fortis);

• Andius Teijgeler as head of marketing and sales (from

• Bernadette Langius as head of Netherlands (from ABN);

• Horst Schmidt as head of Germany (from ABN);

• Yves Stein as head of Switzerland (also responsible for
Poland) (from Fortis)

• Jeroen Rijpkema as head of Belgium (from ABN)