By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
A Bahamian-owned institution yesterday rescued several financial services jobs by acquiring a $1bn asset portfolio from its departing Swiss-headquartered owner.
Julius Baer, which earlier this year dealt a significant blow to the Bahamian financial industry by announcing the closure of its Nassau "booking centre" with the loss of around 30 jobs, announced that it agreed to sell its Bahamian portfolio to Ansbacher (Bahamas) for an undisclosed sum.
The Swiss institution yesterday acknowledged that Ansbacher (Bahamas), which is owned by AF Holdings (the former Colina Financial Group), was unlikely to retain all former Julius Baer staff as it will seek to extract efficiency gains and cost savings from the deal.
It argued, though, that keeping the book of business in The Bahamas and rescue of some jobs is a better result than simply liquidating its subsidiary and winding-up its affairs.
"We believe a sale is a better outcome for all stakeholders than a liquidation, which would ultimately lead to a discontinuation of employment for all employees," Julius Baer's head office said in a statement.
"The buyer [Ansbacher Bahamas] will conduct interviews in the coming weeks and subsequently decide which employees it intends to retain. Julius Baer intends to honour any completion bonus that is due, at the latest by the transaction closing date. Employees who are not retained by the buyer will receive their severance payment and any completion bonus that is due from Julius Baer."
The sale is due to close in the 2020 second half once all the relevant regulatory approvals are received. Julius Baer, which indicated it had received multiple approaches for its Bahamian subsidiary after announcing its intention to exit this jurisdiction, did not reveal who else it received "purchase offers" from. It added that it may now withdraw from The Bahamas earlier than planned while operations continue ahead of the transaction completing.
The Julius Baer purchase is the latest in Ansbacher's decade-old strategy to grow by acquisition. This began when A. F. Holdings and its principals, Emanuel Alexiou and Anthony Ferguson, used their Sentinel International Bank & Trust to acquire the Ansbacher (Bahamas) business in May 2009.
The merged business retained the Ansbacher name given its stronger brand identity, and the acquisition strategy has continued over the following 11 years with the purchase of Finter Bank & Trust (Bahamas), Lyford International Bank and now Julius Baer.
One financial services source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said of the latest deal: "There's really only one buyer of these foreign banks, so when they sell they always end up selling to Ansbacher.
"I've watched them buy a number of these small banks that are exiting. I think it's consistent with what they've been doing. It's a strategy they've had for years, rolling up all the offshore banks. That's always been the plan. When they first bought Ansbacher it was to get an offshore entity to use as a springboard to enter the international market as people exited."
Ansbacher (Bahamas) website states it has $7bn in client assets under administration, meaning that the Julius Baer acquisition will now take it over the $8bn mark. The bank, which has 80 staff, is said to offer wealth management, private banking and fiduciary services in 75 countries, and is headed by managing director Andrew Alexiou, Mr Alexiou's son.
Ansbacher (Bahamas) generated $5.342m in total profits on $26.858m in revenues for the 12 months to end-2019, an improvement on the prior year's $4.836. Its parent, A. F. Holdings, is said to have $11bn in assets under administration and $230m in total equity.