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Private banker focused on billionaires on London hiring spree, eyes Singapore

[LONDON] Azura, the wealth-management firm focused on billionaire entrepreneurs, is betting London will remain a top destination for the wealthy, regardless of the potential of a left-wing government and Brexit.

"No city in Europe can compete with London," founder Ali Jamal said in an interview this week at Azura's Mayfair office. "For security, for its financial system, for the lifestyle and the amount of wealthy individuals living here or moving here."

While much of the City of London is in a holding position until next month's election, Mr Jamal is expanding Azura's London team of six bankers with plans to hire 14 more in the UK capital by the end of 2020. It also expects to grow its footprint in Monaco and Singapore.

Mr Jamal, 37, started the business in the summer after working at Julius Baer Group Ltd. The new firm has about US$2.5 billion of advisory assets under management, up 25 per cent since June.

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Azura already has added three bankers to its ranks this month. Carsten Jorgensen, who previously ran family offices for the billionaire Mittal and Kamprad families; Marco Mazzuccheli, a former head of European investment banking at Credit Suisse Group AG; and Zeid Akkawi, a former Julius Baer banker, joined the firm two weeks ago, according to Mr Jamal.

Azura's planned growth underscores the booming business of catering to the world's richest people. Billionaire wealth stood at US$8.5 trillion in 2018, US$2.2 trillion higher than five years earlier, according to a report by UBS Group AG and PwC.

The London expansion demonstrates the firm's conviction that the metropolis will sustain its appeal to the very wealthy even as it faces the prospect of life outside the European Union and repeated attacks from political leaders. While the possibility of Labour's Jeremy Corbyn in power has slowed some hiring in the City of London, Mr Jamal discounts the possibility of him ever wielding power.

"It's very difficult to see Jeremy Corbyn winning, and even if he wins I don't think that he will have a majority," Mr Jamal said, predicting a Conservative victory would turbocharge the financial centre. "We're going to see people coming back, more inflows and the glamour return."