The early years
Recognising the importance of Zurich as a centre for international trade, Julius Baer, founder and namesake of the Group, opened shop on Zurich’s famous Bahnhofstrasse in the 1890s. What initially started as a small bureau de change rapidly expanded into a wealth management, securities and FX trading company – business activities that remain at the core of the Julius Baer Group until today.
Growing the business
Parallel to the strong economic growth and technological progress after World War II, the company – then a partnership comprising of an increasing number of Baer family members – began expanding internationally in 1940 and thus laid the first building blocks of today’s global business. The need to finance this rapid growth drove Julius Baer to become the first Swiss private bank to go public in 1980.
The majority of the voting rights from the initial public offering remained within the Baer family pool, thus ensuring full control of the Group. This only changed at the beginning of 2005 with the introduction of the ’one share, one vote’ principle. This new financial leeway was utilised in the same year for the acquisition of three private banks and a specialised asset manager, which together were even larger in size than Julius Baer itself. Exploiting this massively increased scale, Julius Baer started expanding rapidly into global growth markets, particularly Asia, and achieved strong growth momentum in the years that followed.
The 2008 credit crisis ushered in a fundamentally changed business environment, leading Julius Baer to take a rather unorthodox step. By separating the Group’s asset management and private client businesses in October 2009, each individual business was provided with precious strategic flexibility in the early stage of this new cycle. The private banking business became the independent Julius Baer Group Ltd. and began systematically broadening its international presence and specialised offering via acquisitions and a number of strategic cooperation agreements around the globe.
In August 2012, Julius Baer initiated the next phase of its growth by acquiring Merrill Lynch’s International Wealth Management (IWM) business outside the US. IWM provided a rare opportunity to substantially increase the Group’s footprint in established markets, new markets, and in growth regions. This growth enabled the Group to further strengthen its leading position in a highly competitive industry, to provide clients with an unparalleled product and services offering, and to tackle any future challenges from a position of strength as the international reference in private banking.
“If contact between people is based on trust and absolute integrity, then it is of benefit for both sides.” Julius Baer, Founder