Swiss bank NPB forms joint venture to set up wealth advisory business in Abu Dhabi

The private bank has tied up with Almha, a company backed by a former central bank chairman, to operate from ADGM

FH1NBM Evening view of new financial and business district called Abu Dhabi Global Market square (ABGM) on Al Maryah Island Abu Dhabi. Alamy
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Neue Privat Bank, a Zurich-based private bank, is tying up with investment company Almha to set up a private wealth advisory business in Abu Dhabi’s financial free zone.

NPB and Almha – a company founded by London-based entrepreneur Amjed Al Jaffery and Hareb Al Darmaki, a former chairman of the Central Bank of the UAE – are seeking a Category 4 licence to operate from Abu Dhabi Global Market, NPB chief executive Markus Ruffner told The National in an interview.

The joint venture entity is expected to be operational by the middle of 2021, subject to regulatory approvals, he said.

NPB, a small Swiss private bank, operates through a network of global managers who invest across asset classes including equities, debt, convertible instruments, private equity and real estate investments.

“Even the very large [private] banks, they are not very good in all markets and all asset classes,” Mr Ruffner said. “We have a lot of asset management companies … we choose [partners based] on what our clients need … [and pick] really the best for different investment segments.

“We are not biased for our own product. We think our strength is asset allocation,” he said, declining to reveal the total amount of assets managed by NPB.

The UAE, the second-largest Arab economy, is becoming an increasingly attractive market for international wealth managers looking to compete with local, regional and international lenders, who are also boosting their services for affluent clients.

A number of international and Swiss banks including HSBC, BNP Paribas, Mirabaud and Lombard Odier are already present in the UAE, vying for a share of the growing wealth management market. Last month, Citibank UAE said it plans to expand its assets under management threefold to $15 billion by 2025 and double the number of relationship managers to support the growth of its wealth management division.

The number of high net worth individuals is growing and the combined wealth of millionaires in the country is forecast to grow by 4.2 per cent per year, to $510bn by 2024, according to Boston Consulting Group's Global Wealth 2020 report. This growth, however, is subject to the pace of the post-coronavirus recovery, the company said.

The agility of its model and its ability to offer a balanced portfolio across asset classes will give the joint venture a competitive edge over some of its larger competitors in the region, NPB said.

“There’s a gap within the region to be fulfilled – to provide really true, independent advice to high net-worth individuals,” Peter Albinsson, NPB's head of international private banking and its ultra-high net worth clients business, said.

The bank’s partnership with Almha is founded on a “shared vision of how private wealth management should be done” in the region, he added.

The ADGM-based entity will target “anyone" seeking trusted guidance, Mr Albinsson said. “Many wealth individuals have multiple advisers to look after them and our objective is to be one of them.”

Its joint venture partner, Almha, brings additional wealth management experience, Mr Al Jaffery, who is chairman and founder of SAAJ Family Office Group, a multi-family office in London, said.

“We are well aware … and we do know what is required in this area, [and] what are the concerns of family offices in dealing with some of the bigger institutions,” Mr Al Jaffery said.

Mr Al Darmaki, an adviser to the managing director’s office at Abu Dhabi Investment Authority and co-founder of Gulf Capital, has more than 40 years’ experience in the UAE’s investment and financial landscape, he said.

Abu Dhabi’s ADGM office will be the hub for the company’s operations across the region serving affluent clients and family offices across the GCC. It will also look to wrestle away some institutional business from its competitors.

“We are not limiting ourselves to just the UAE,” he said.

“We will be targeting all the big institutions”, he added. “We have a lot of skill on that side and we will bring it into play.”