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Head of Coutts Intl set to exit following UBP deal: source

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Alexander Classen, chief executive of Royal Bank of Scotland's overseas private banking arm, is set to step down shortly following a sale to Union Bancaire Privee (UBP), according to a person familiar with his thinking.

[ZURICH] Alexander Classen, chief executive of Royal Bank of Scotland's overseas private banking arm, is set to step down shortly following a sale to Union Bancaire Privee (UBP), according to a person familiar with his thinking.

A veteran private banker, Classen had been asked to lead the integration of the two private banks, but has declined the offer and will leave Coutts within the coming two to three weeks, the source said.

The 52-year-old's exit follows the departure of two of the regional heads of the business after Geneva-based UBP agreed last month to buy the international arm of 300-year-old British wealth manager Coutts.

RBS is keeping Coutts' UK business, which counts Britain's royal family among its customers.

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The buyer, UBP, is privately held by the Picciotto family and run by the founder's son, Guy de Picciotto.

The purchase of Coutts International, which is based in Switzerland, is part of an aggressive expansion by UBP, but the bank is reliant on retaining key private bankers to make a success of the deal.

In four years at the helm, Classen has sold the bank's Latin American, Caribbean and African private banking arms to Royal Bank of Canada and shut smaller businesses in Europe.

Like dozens of banks in Switzerland, the Coutts unit has entered a programme with the US Department of Justice to avoid prosecution for helping wealthy Americans evade taxes.

A spokeswoman for Coutts had no comment on whether Classen was planning to leave. UBP did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.

Classen's exit comes after news of the departures of two prominent Coutts bankers in Zurich, Michael Vlahovic and Daniel Furtwaengler. Vlahovic was head of private banking in Eastern and Central Europe and Fuertwaenger was head of private banking wealth international, Zurich.

Deals among private banks are becoming far more common as foreign players leave Switzerland and domestic companies bulk up with the mass needed to survive increasing regulatory requirements.

But they remain delicate affairs fraught with cultural traps and the potential to fail if advisers - and with them client assets - flee for rivals.

REUTERS

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