Julius Baer committed to Asia despite Hong Kong tensions -paper

ZURICH, June 16 (Reuters) - Julius Baer is committed to Asia and Hong Kong, despite international tensions with China over pro-democracy protests in the former British colony, the Swiss private bank’s chairman Romeo Lacher said in a Swiss newspaper interview.

“A significant part of global wealth growth is taking place in Asia and we will therefore continue to invest there,” the Aarguer Zeitung quoted Lacher as saying on Tuesday.

“Hong Kong is the most important financial centre in the region and is extremely dynamic,” he added.

Asked whether he thought the United States could force banks to decide between it and China, he said:

“No, I think that is very unlikely for our industry. Hong Kong plays an important role for all market participants as an open and strictly regulated financial centre.”

The coronavirus crisis meant Baer had done well in the first four months due to high trading volume, Lacher said, adding that this would not continue as the year went on.

“The positive thing is that stock prices have recovered so quickly, because a significant part of our income depends on the amount of client assets,” he said.

Lacher said Baer had taken steps taken to address the FINMA supervisor’s concerns about its lax standards in the past for combating suspected money laundering.

“Our client advisers must also be able to say ‘no’ to business. We are also well advanced in changing financial incentives so that they no longer reward volume growth.” (Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Alexander Smith)