Julius Baer to Boost Bonuses at Least 10% for High Performers

Julius Baer Group Ltd. is planning to boost bonuses for high-performing client advisers by at least 10%, as Chief Executive Officer Philipp Rickenbacher makes good on a promise to pay for performance during the pandemic.

While top performers could see higher rises, some average and lower-performing relationship managers could see cuts of at least 10%, people familiar with the matter said, asking not to be identified discussing internal plans. The Zurich-based firm’s overall bonus pool will also increase after profit rose 50% last year, one of the people said.

A spokesperson for the bank declined to comment.

Julius Baer’s focus on wealthy clients -- who benefited from soaring stock markets -- and relatively conservative lending have shielded the bank from the worst fallout from the pandemic, even as the industry battles lower margins and negative interest rates. Still, at a time when the coronavirus pandemic has hit many industries hard, the discretionary payouts are a delicate balancing act.

“This is a very difficult time and environment and one has to be very mindful of that,” Rickenbacher said in an interview on Feb. 1 with Bloomberg TV’s Manus Cranny.

Bonus payments are seen by some as critical to retain top relationship managers as competition with rivals such as Credit Suisse Group AG and UBS Group AG for wealthy clients intensifies. UBS, Switzerland’s largest wealth manager, plans to boost bonuses for investment bankers and wealth managers in Asia, while their European counterparts may see a decrease, Bloomberg has reported.

Julius Baer last year reviewed its compensation structure for relationship managers and weighted it more toward profitability, rather than the revenues they bring in. A spokesperson for the firm said those changes won’t affect the bonus for last year.

The move was part of a broader overhaul by Rickenbacher, who has also dropped a target for new client assets, after the bank was stung by a probe by Switzerland’s regulator into its Latin America business. Last month, the bank’s former CEO, Boris Collardi, was reprimanded in a case related to alleged corruption in Venezuela.

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