Katharine Mak, managing director and chairwoman of J.P. Morgan Private Bank’s Global Investment Opportunities group, is responsible for building the ultra-high-net-worth (UNHW) business for the bank in Asia.
Mak joined J.P. Morgan in 1994 from another American bank where she was a senior private banker. She has only worked with two banks in her entire career. But she didn’t think twice joining J.P. Morgan after seeing the bank’s impressive research database, which was highly-advanced. She’s still in awe over the bank’s database platform to this day.
“Back in 1994, whenever we needed a piece of data or information, we can get them in a very professional and friendly manner through our platform. Even today, it’s still impressive,” Mak says.
With over 25 years of experience in equity research and wealth management, Mak is a trusted wealth advisor to UNHW clients in Asia, many of whom are businessmen who have operations in China.
While in Asia, she worked with the Global Investment Opportunities group which was based in New York. She was asked to lead the Asian team for the group from 2009.
“During the time of 1994, it was very easy to leverage on initiatives from the US. At that time, we only had a total of 40 to 45 people working for the bank based in Singapore and Hong Kong and they covered clients in Hong Kong, Singapore and some locations in South East Asia
, where we now have over 500 staff servicing our clients in Asia. It (structure) was very chunky because there were big name clients with big assets,” Mak says.
She recognized the growing opportunity in the private banking space, managing the assets of Asia’s wealthy. Over the years, she worked with the bank in building a private banking business for Asia.
“It was like a puzzle, but we had all the pieces. The first thing we needed was talent and the second thing was learning how to grow the business to complement the discretionary portfolio. For me, the question was: how do you actually leverage US investment and distribute it in a local way to clients in Asia,” Mak says.
J.P. Morgan’s private banking business has evolved since. Today, the bank boasts of a robust private banking business in Asia and is expanding.
“The private bank carries out its functions and responsibilities very clearly. For us, the investors’ role is very clear; so do our bankers, wealth advisors and capital advisors, they all have a very clear and independent role within our integrated team model, which enables us to deliver best group efficiencies and results to our clients. This is one reason we attract new talents. They (investors) have a very clear investment role, with a mandate to see how they can grow,” Mak says.