UBS hires JPMorgan veteran Joe Azelby to head real assets

The Swiss manager plans to double its infrastructure portfolio to $10bn over the coming years.

The asset management division of Swiss investment bank UBS has named Joe Azelby as the new head of its $100 billion real estate and private markets business.

Azelby will report to Ulrich Koerner, president of UBS Asset Management, according to a statement from the company. He brings with him an almost two-decade track record of running asset management groups at JPMorgan and Apollo Global Management.

Joe Azelby, UBS Asset Management’s new head of real estate and private markets.

For 18 years, Azelby, an American football player turned finance veteran, built and led JPMorgan’s $88 billion global real assets business. Most recently, he was a senior partner and head of real assets at Apollo from April 2017 until May 2018, during which he reshaped the firm’s real estate business and expanded it into infrastructure and agriculture.

UBS also said it had appointed Thomas Wels as its divisional vice-chairman for asset management. Wels previously led the company’s real estate and private markets business.

In a recent interview with Infrastructure Investor, Tommaso Albanese, UBS’s head of infrastructure, said the asset class had not been a top priority for the firm in recent years. UBS manages a $5 billion direct infrastructure platform. Albanese told Infrastructure Investor that this platform “has, for many years, been sub-scale, under-invested [in] and thus lost contact with its investors”.

Albanese said he was put in charge of the infrastructure unit in order to change that, and that UBS has set a target to grow its infrastructure business to $10 billion over the coming years. The firm has just closed its second debt fund on its €1 billion hard-cap and is getting ready to raise its third equity fund, which is said to be targeting about $1 billion.