Luigi Vignola: «The Time of Our Lives»

Luigi Vignola, Julius Baer

Luigi Vignola, Julius Baer

Many bankers are ready to leave Switzerland, to escape the doom and gloom of Swiss banking – and looking for a new employer, they give Luigi Vignola a call. But the head of investment solutions at Julius Baer in Asia prefers to hire locally, he told

Luigi Vignola is a top Swiss banker who's witnessed the difficulties on the Chinese equity markets from close-up. The head of markets and investment solutions in the Asia Pacific region at Julius Baer was called upon to even out the unusual fluctuations of equity prices for the rich Asian clients of the private bank. He seems unruffled by the task.

Quite to the contrary. He receives the visitor from Switzerland on the 43rd floor of Asia Square Tower 1 in Singapore in the plush domicile of Julius Baer private bank, full of youthful enthusiasm and in the lingo of his native Zurich.

Slow Start to Trading in 2016

«Our Asian private-banking clients in general weren't much exposed to the turbulence in China,» Vignola said. Simply because they aren't heavily invested in the Chinese market. With the consequence that they didn't participate in the heyday of early 2015 – nor in the correction of this year.

The early months of 2016 have been slow with low trading volumes, Vignola said, adding that customers now better understood the value of the bank's advise – a sentiment he shares with his CEO Boris Collardi.

The past six years of rising equity prices made life easy for bankers, helping them to pick lucrative trades, Vignola thinks. Time's up though and good bankers can shine again: «This is the time of our lives,» is what the Baer manager is telling his crew.

No to Casino Banking

Far from wanting to kindle a casino attitude among his staff, Vignola hastens to add that of course sometimes it is better not to trade than to trade. This more conservative approach to making money is finding more and more adherents in Asia too , where clients traditionally are said to favor a more active approach. «Asian entrepreneurs who have made money in recent years understand that the best of the times are over,» Vignola says. «Hence they want to preserve their assets.»

Vignola is a graduate of the derivates business at Zuercher Kantonalbank, starting at the institute at the turn of the century. In 2009 he switched to Julius Baer, where he took the job of head of markets in Singapore four years ago. In 2014, the bank also made him head of products.

The job makes him the envy of the private-banking industry in Switzerland. «I receive numerous calls from Swiss private bankers, who are looking for work in Asia.»

Hiring Locally

The bankers looking for a job far away from the doom and gloom in Switzerland normally don't get the nod. Julius Baer is hiring for its business in Asia, Vignola said, but the bank is mainly interested in adding local talent «It is rather difficult for expats to quickly find their feet in the new environment.»

The appointment of Jimmy Lee, the former Credit Suisse banker as new head of Asia at Julius Baer is such a case in point. The bank is using the new hire to revamp its Asia business and to make it into a second home market. Boris Collardi is eager to catch the next growth wave.

What Next?

Not least because the inflow of new money at Julius Baer has slowed recently.

The Zurich-based bank is also happy to make acquisitions, Vignola confirmed. Julius Baer is in a position where it can participate actively in the wave of mergers and acquisitions – even if the potential number of targets in Asia has dwindled.

The bank is said to be interested in the private-banking business of Barclays in Asia. It most recently added a wealth manager in Singapore. The market is eagerly awaiting the next move of the bears of Zurich.

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