More than 40 institutional staff defect from Sarasin to rival Notenstein

Sustainable finance stalwart blames exodus on ‘domino effect’

Swiss private bank J. Safra Sarasin, historically one of the leading sustainable investment players in its home market, is facing an exodus of staff to its upstart rival Notenstein.

Notenstein, the successor institution to the now-defunct Swiss private bank Wegelin, has confirmed that more than 40 former Sarasin employees are to join its new institutional business team this autumn. That team will be based in Basle and be led by ex-Sarasin bankers Aris Prepoudis and Andreas Knörzer, whose moves to Notenstein were reported by RI.

Mirroring their Sarasin roles, Prepoudis will head institutional sales while Knörzer will head asset management and create sustainable funds for institutional clients like pension funds and foundations.

In early June, RI reported that five Sarasin portfolio managers would join the pair at Notenstein. The St. Gallen-based bank did not comment, saying only that it aimed to recruit up to 50 people for its new institutional team. Last month RI reported that Sarasin’s former German institutional sales head Frank Wettlauffer had also been recruited by Notenstein.Notenstein is owned by Swiss cooperative banking group Raiffeisen, which lost out when Safra bought Rabobank’s controlling stake in Sarasin in 2011.

“If I were to speculate on the departures, I would say that it has partly to do with the ‘domino effect’ (German: ‘Ansteckungseffekt’),” a spokesman for Sarasin in Basle told RI. “Perhaps some said to themselves, I have worked with the colleague for years, and if he leaves, maybe I should too.”

Yet the spokesman added Sarasin had since replaced three-quarters of the staff who left. He added that the remainder would not be replaced due to a reorganisation triggered by Safra’s takeover of the bank. Prior to the move, Sarasin employed about 1,700 people.

Meanwhile, Sarasin has lost another long-time senior executive, Hans-Rudolf Hufschmid, who resigned as deputy of the bank’s supervisory board in early June.

Given the upheavals, Eric Sarasin, deputy chief executive of J. Safra Sarasin, has sought to accentuate the positive. “Like in the past, the bank will be family-owned and led. That means we are returning to our roots,” he told a Swiss newspaper.