The sign for Swiss bank Julius Baer is seen at a branch office in Luzern, Switzerland, November 23, 2017. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann
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It is the fantasy of all investors: getting out at the top. For bosses, too, leaving to applause trumps the converse. Yet leaving for a lesser title might raise questions. Boris Collardi’s resignation from Julius Baer on Monday to become just a partner at Geneva-based rival Pictet may look odd in that regard. The context suggests otherwise.

For starters, Mr Collardi has done well for Julius Baer’s shareholders. Its stock price has risen almost two-thirds since he assumed the top role in October 2009, when the group was spun out of the old Julius Baer. The performance is ahead of the Swiss market, and much better than that of Gam Holdings, the asset management group left behind.

Baer’s cost to income ratio has also dropped below 70 per cent, beneath most of its rivals. That cost control has translated into a premium valuation. Baer trades at its highest estimated price to book — more than two times — since the group was listed. That is pricier than rivals Vontobel and EFG.

Privately held Pictet offers Mr Collardi a chance to be one of just seven partners who control the group’s voting shares. He can expect a healthy dividend from that interest, too. In its first half year alone, Pictet generated SFr247m in after-tax profit, up 29 per cent on the same period in 2016. An average of half has been paid out to shareholders in the past two years. That suggests pay at his new shop should go up by a multiple from the SFr6.5m he earned at Baer. And no more tiresome quarterly earnings conference calls. Instead, he can focus on expanding Pictet’s wealth management business alongside partner Remy Best.

Private bankers like to claim a long-term perspective. Mr Collardi will be the youngest partner and the first from outside the group since 1998. Baer shareholders clearly like the move a whole lot less. Its shares fell as much as 6 per cent on the day. They will want assurances that Mr Collardi’s successor, deputy CEO Bernhard Hodler, can continue to expand Baer’s business without increasing costs.

The Lex team is interested in hearing more from readers. Does Julius Baer have a problem — and is this a natural move for Mr Collardi? Please tell us what you think in the comments section below.

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