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New Partner PHOTO

Synpulse widens circle of Partners

International management consultancy Synpulse has two new partners. The appointments are a result of strong growth in the company’s business with banks and insurers in Singapore and Hong Kong.

Synpulse has appointed Prasanna Venkatesan and Salomon Wettstein as new partners, according to a news release on Thursday. The firm also announced that Yves Roesti has joined its team of managing partners.

Roesti is based in Singapore and responsible for Synpulse’s consulting business in Asia. He studied computer science and economics at the University of Zurich and started his career at Synpulse in Zurich in 2006. Since his relocation to Singapore in 2008, he has led the expansion of Synpulse’s consulting business in Asia.

Promoting Digital Roadmaps

In 2015, he was appointed partner. Under his leadership, Synpulse grew the team in Asia to 150 consultants across three key markets – Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia. In particular, Roesti has been promoting banking operating model transformations and digital roadmaps.

Wettstein joined Synpulse in 2011. He holds a Master in Computational Science and Engineering at the Swiss Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich. Wettstein heads the Hong Kong office and oversees the banking practice in the Greater China region. He manages strategic business and technology transformations for clients in that region and is part of the global Operational Excellence leadership team.

Consulting Private Banks

Venkatesan also started his career at Synpulse in 2011 and is based in Singapore. He holds an MBA from the Nanyang University of Technology (NTU) in Singapore. He specializes in consulting for the private banking sector in the areas of advisory excellence, large scale transformation and leads the regulatory, risk and compliance practice in Asia.

Since its founding in 1996, Synpulse has supported banks and insurers along the entire value chain – that is from the development of strategies and their operational realization to technical implementation and handover. Synpulse stands out due to the industry expertise, passion and commitment of its more than 350 employees. The firm has offices in Zurich, Geneva, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Bratislava, Vienna, Singapore, Hong Kong, New York and London.

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Griffith Business alumnus becomes Trade & Investment commissioner

Griffith Business School alumnus Julie-Anne Nichols has been announced as Queensland’s new Trade and Investment Commissioner for China.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said Ms Nichols, who holds a Bachelor of International Business and a Graduate Diploma in Mandarin Chinese Language from the University, has exceptional experience as a leader and stakeholder liaison with the Asian business landscape that will serve her well in the key role.

“Ms Nichols has been the Queensland Trade and Investment Commissioner in Hong Kong since February 2017 and was previously the Senior Trade Commissioner for Austrade in Guangzhou and in Singapore, so her experience across Asia is outstanding,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

“She is well placed to represent Queensland’s interests in trade and investment across all industries and has an extensive knowledge of the Chinese market.”

Acting Pro Vice Chancellor (Business) Professor Fabrizio Carmignani congratulated Ms Nichols on her appointment, which will see her work to improve trade and investment ties between Queensland and China.

“We are proud to hear that one of our remarkable Griffith Business School alumni has climbed to such tremendous heights in the international trade and investment sector,” Professor Carmignani said.

“As a university with historically strong ties to the Asia region, it is deeply rewarding to see Julie-Anne living the Griffith value of engaging with our northern neighbours to achieve meaningful outcomes and impacts for the state of Queensland at large.

“We wish Julie-Anne all the best in her new and exciting role, and will be watching eagerly as she continues to move from strength to strength in her career.”

Ms Nichols has been a resident of China for a decade, during which time she has overseen several teams working across eastern China and north-east Asia.

One of her first duties, according to the state government, will be to oversee the 30th anniversary of the Queensland Government Sister-State Agreement with Shanghai Municipal Government, being commemorated this year.

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London loses top financial centre ranking to New York

London has been replaced by New York as the world’s most attractive financial centre, a survey has indicated, as Brexit prompts banks to shift jobs out of the city to keep access to Europe’s single market.

Britain’s decision to leave the EU poses the biggest challenge to the City of London‘s finance industry since the 2007-2009 global crisis, since it may mean banks and insurers lose access to the world’s biggest trading bloc.

New York took first place, followed by London, Hong Kong and Singapore in the Z/Yen global financial centres index, which ranks 100 centres on factors such as infrastructure and access to quality staff.

London‘s score fell by eight points from six months ago, the biggest decline among the top contenders. The survey’s authors said this reflected the uncertainty around Britain’s departure next year.

“We are getting closer and closer to exit day and we still don’t know whether London will be able to trade with all the other European financial centres,” Mark Yeandle, co-creator of the index, said.

“The fear of losing business to other centres is driving the slight decline and people are concerned about London’s competitiveness.”

Since Britain voted in 2016 to leave the EU, some of the world’s most powerful finance companies have started moving staff from London to countries that will remain in the bloc to preserve the existing cross-border flow of trading.

Financial services firms, which account for about 12 per cent of Britain’s economic output and pay more tax than any other industry, potentially have a lot to lose from the end of unfettered access to the EU.

About 5,000 roles are expected to be shifted from London or created in the EU due to Brexit by March, a Reuters study published earlier this year found.

The head of the City of London predicted in July that 3,500 to 12,000 financial jobs would go because of Brexit in the short-term and more might disappear later.

Asian competitors are closing in, with Hong Kong only three points behind London, the survey found.

Many London executives have warned the biggest threats to London are not from other European centres but from global competitors, such as New York and Hong Kong.

The rankings, which are based on nearly 2,500 respondents working in the industry, provide a twice-yearly guide to the relative performance of financial centres globally.

The number of banks saying they plan to set up new EU subsidiaries after Brexit has picked up in the past year. Most major US, British and Japanese banks said they would build up operations in Frankfurt, Paris or Dublin.

Other European centres moved up in the global rankings. Zurich rose to ninth place from 16th six months ago and Frankfurt to 10th from 20th, while Amsterdam climbed to 35th place from 50th.

“London and New York have long vied for the top spot of this index and the uncertainty around the future shape of Brexit is likely to be a factor in their latest switch in positions,” said Miles Celic, chief executive of the lobbying group TheCityUK. “In a competitive world we cannot afford complacency.”

A Bank of England official expressed optimism on Wednesday about the future.

HSBC PHOTO

HSBC to bolster Asia private banking headcount, double client assets

HSBC aims to increase its Asia private banking headcount by two-thirds in five years and double client assets in eight as it eyes a bigger share of the business in the world’s fastest-growing wealth market, top executives said.

The lender’s private banking expansion plan in Asia, which accounted for 75 percent of group-level profit last year, comes as the unit that caters to the rich is focusing once more on growth after years of painful restructuring.

“Asia is the key driver for future profitability in the private bank … it’s been the driver for growth even through the difficult times and it’s always remained profitable,” Peter Boyles, CEO of HSBC’s global private banking business, told Reuters.

HSBC’s Asia private bank will add 700 people by 2022 from a headcount of 1,100 at the end of 2017. The increase will add staff in various roles including relationship managers, product specialists and family wealth planners, said Siew Meng Tan, Asia Pacific head of private banking.

HSBC’s global private banking business manages $330 billion (£253.69 billion) worth of clients assets, and Asia accounts for 39 percent of the total, making it the single largest market for the bank.

It also aims to double Asia-based client assets by 2025, in-line with consultant Capgemini’s overall wealth growth forecast in the region over the same period, as it expands its presence in the banking hubs of Hong Kong and Singapore and also vies for a bigger share of offshore Chinese wealth, Tan said.

Asia has emerged as the main battleground for global wealth managers, with higher economic growth, rapidly rising wages and a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem producing rich clients at a pace faster than the western world.

Asia Pacific accounts for 34 percent of the world population of high net worth individuals, or those having investable assets of $1 million or more, and 31 percent of their wealth – ahead of North America, as per Capgemini’s 2018 wealth report.

Growth Mode

Clients with more than $5 million of investable assets are served by the bank’s private banking unit, while those with less than that threshold are taken up by HSBC’s retail banking and wealth management division.

HSBC’s private banking business had a torrid time following embarrassing data leaks in 2008 allegedly showing tax evasion by clients, prompting probes into the tax affairs of some of its Swiss account holders in a number of European countries.

The bank in 2015 admitted failings in compliance and controls in its Swiss private bank in the period up to 2007. It has since then taken significant steps to implement global standards and tax transparency initiatives.

The private banking unit, which brought in just over 3 percent of the bank’s adjusted global revenues in 2017, shrunk its footprint and exited some clients in the last few years as it sharpened its focus on compliance and profitability.

“We have done the repositioning work and we are now seeing net growth coming through because the drag effect from business exits has now diminished,” said Boyles, who took over his current role in 2012 and spearheaded the restructuring.

“We actually had a first year of growth for many years, both in assets under management and in net profit, in 2017. And moving into 2018 we have seen continued progress,” he said.

WTW PHOTO

Willis Towers Watson Asia Pacific business receives accreditation

Willis Towers Watson, the global advisory, broking and solutions company, today announced that its Insurance Consulting and Technology (ICT) business in Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia has received accreditation under the Quality Assurance Scheme (QAS) by the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFoA).

Willis Towers Watson was one of the first organisations to be accredited when the IFoA introduced the Scheme in the UK back in 2015. “Willis Towers Watson was one of the first organisations to be accredited when the IFoA introduced the Scheme in the UK back in 2015,” said Mark Birch, global leader, professional excellence for Insurance Consulting and Technology. “Professional excellence is a core value of Willis Towers Watson and this QAS accreditation recognises that. It was a natural step for us to seek to extend the accreditation to our Asia Pacific practice,” said Birch, who attended the recent IFoA Asia Conference in Bangkok where, in recognition of the accreditation, he received a trophy on behalf of the practice.

He added: “We are committed to leading and sustaining professional excellence. This means ongoing communication to educate and engage our colleagues in our Professional Excellence approach; we provide colleagues with tools and clear guidance to meet our standards and recognise and reward for outstanding contributions to Professional Excellence.”

The IFoA has over 28,000 members worldwide. It encourages actuarial employers to provide an appropriate environment and support systems to help actuaries produce high quality actuarial work. To gain the accreditation, the offices underwent a vigorous independent assessment that examined areas such as quality assurance, conflicts of interest, employee development and training, along with creating an environment that supports speaking up about issues that cause concern. It also looked at client relationships, including engagement and communication, and the handling and resolution of any issues raised.

Merger PHOTO

Berwin Leighton Paisner and Bryan Cave to merge in April

Two legal firms will form a global brand with revenues of more than $900 million. Their Asian coverage will expand.

Berwin Leighton Paisner and Bryan Cave will combine as Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner in April 2018, according to a statement from the firms.

The new entity will have an international practice and sector teams in 32 offices across 11 countries and approximately 1,600 lawyers, and will be led by co-chairs Therese Pritchard and Lisa Mayhew.

In Asia, Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner will have a greater presence than they had so far. The reach of the two firms will extend with offices in Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Singapore.