(Bloomberg) -- JPMorgan Chase & Co. has quietly built a global unit focused on catering to the ultra-wealthy and their investment firms as it looks to expand services to the world’s super-rich.
Created just before the pandemic and led by JPMorgan veteran Andy Cohen, the business now includes about three dozen people in the US, Asia and Europe and works closely with the New York-based firm’s investment and private banks.
The unit is called 23 Wall, a nod to the location of the bank’s former Manhattan headquarters opposite the New York Stock Exchange. It focuses on about 700 families worth more than $4.5 trillion, according to Cohen.
“We built this from the ground up,” Cohen, 56, executive chairman of JPMorgan Global Wealth Management, said in an interview from the company’s London office. “We will continue to grow.”
Global banks are vying for a greater share of the wealth created in recent years, helping to drive fierce competition for the world’s biggest fortunes. JPMorgan’s private bank opened 40,000 new accounts in the past 10 weeks, and last year added about one new client a day with assets of $100 million or more, Mary Erdoes, chief executive officer of asset and wealth management, said last week at the firm’s investor day.
Goldman Sachs Group Inc. is also expanding its private-banking services and focusing more on family offices, while Citigroup Inc. opened new private-banking offices last year as part of plans to boost returns.
The move shows how the largest banks are responding to the growing sophistication in the way the world’s richest individuals and families manage their wealth. They’re increasingly choosing to do so through family offices, loosely regulated money managers that typically cater to a single or a handful of major fortunes.
“My specific charge is with large, multinational families and family offices,” said Cohen, who joined JPMorgan more than two decades ago. “They have institutional needs.”
Michelle Chen, a former senior China technology banker at JPMorgan, shifted teams in February to lead 23 Wall’s efforts in north Asia. The firm is tapping external talent as well, recruiting UBS Group AG veteran Henry Knapman in London last year and former Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA executive Gabriel Bochi in 2021 to focus on Latin American clients.
Cohen runs 23 Wall in partnership with other JPMorgan wealth executives and operates his team of relationship managers and investment professionals across a dozen cities in six nations, including Paris, Hong Kong and San Francisco. About half of its clients are US-based.
The unit doesn’t have a minimum wealth threshold, but it clearly caters to the richest 0.01%.
“Our typical clients have portfolios of public and private assets, real estate and a vested interest in community and philanthropy, all with an ever-increasing interest in private deals,” Cohen said.
Accelerating inflation and rising interest rates have caused financial strains for investors globally, but many members of the ultra-wealthy are seeing their fortunes grow in 2023, largely driven by surging technology valuations in the US. The world’s 500 richest people have added about $500 billion to their combined net worth this year, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
Many family offices are now looking to funnel that cash into public and private equities, with Stanley Druckenmiller’s Duquesne Family Office and David Tepper’s Appaloosa Management recently loading up on stocks benefiting from a boom in the artificial intelligence sector.
“We have a robust pipeline of demand,” Cohen said.
Cohen, an Australian native who joined JPMorgan in 1999, previously led the company’s international and Asia private banks before taking on his current role.
He said the idea for 23 Wall stemmed from a conversation in 2019 with CEO Jamie Dimon and Erdoes. He initially led the unit from Hong Kong, but later relocated to London.
Even though JPMorgan left its premises at 23 Wall Street decades ago, with the site used these days mostly for special events, Cohen takes a broader view on his unit’s title.
“The name reflects the firm’s rich heritage,” he said. “We wanted to choose a name that represented our two centuries of contribution to global business.”
--With assistance from Tara Patel, Amanda Albright, Cathy Chan and Hannah Levitt.