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BIL Suisse Targets International Growth

Tom Burroughes, Group Editor , London, 3 December 2020

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The private bank, now majority-owned by a Beijing-based group but still with strong ties to Luxembourg, is building out its Swiss and wider international operations. We talk to the CEO of BIL Suisse.

The CEO and head of international business at BIL Suisse – part of Banque Internationale à Luxembourg – thinks that this institution is well placed to capture financial flows between Asia, the Middle East and Europe, thanks to Switzerland’s famed stability.

Hans-Peter Borgh was appointed to the role, which took effect in January, in August last year. He has been at the banking group since 2015 and before that was chief commercial officer for private banking Asia and Middle East at ABN AMRO. He is based in Zurich.

“There are not many banks that give out integrated delivery in that space and for clients with a link to our focus geographies,” he told this news service.

“Switzerland can be a continuing hub between Europe, the Middle East and China,” Borgh said. 

BIL Suisse has appointed people to join its investment banking team led by Remy Savoya and is building teams focused on Eastern Europe, the Middle East and China.

The firm isn’t the largest, but it intends to expand, as its recently-launched brand and marketing campaign suggests.

At the moment BIL Suisse has about SFr4.0 billion ($4.46 billion), and the aim is to double this by 2025. (To put the BIL Suisse figures into context, at the end of 2019 the overall BIL group had €43.5 billion ($52.3 billion) of assets under management.)

China parent
Legend Holdings, a Hong Kong-listed investment group, bought BIL from Luxembourg-based Precision Capital, announcing that deal in 2017. Legend has an 89.936 per cent stake in the group and The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg retains its 9.993 per cent stake.

Having a Chinese parent might raise some questions. Relations between China and the West aren’t easy at the moment, notwithstanding the new US administration that is likely under Joe Biden. Trade tensions with China remain. WealthBriefing asked whether this raised any difficulties for BIL?

“We have excellent relationships with both our shareholders, Legend Holdings and the State of Luxembourg. We have opened a representative office in Beijing and acquired an external asset management firm in Hong Kong in early 2020, and we plan to continue to grow our business in China as planned,” Borgh responded. 

The international ambitions are clear. Borgh said that BIL wants to build out its business beyond its home staff of Luxembourg, where it already holds a large market share. It’s already the largest privately owned Luxembourgeois bank. With its new ownership, the group has more opportunity to scale up its international business. 

On the work with companies (advisory, lending, corporate finance, etc.), BIL focuses on the middle-market space, and this is relatively under-served, Borgh said. 

Certain parts of the fund and asset management market are, Borgh said, getting a “bit crowded” and BIL wants to focus on where it can provide something distinctive and different in credit, corporate advisory, and private markets, for example.

“There are so many entrepreneurs that are asset-rich but facing liquidity planning needs nevertheless, and particularly at the moment because of COVID-19,” he added.

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