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Private banking: The fight escalates for Latin America’s wealthy

As high-net-worth wealth creation accelerates in the region, the struggle for market share between international and local wealth managers intensifies. Jason Mitchell reports.

LATIN AMERICA’S DOMESTIC private banks are fending off mounting competition from international wealth managers by focusing on client service and their in-depth knowledge of local markets.

The region has one of the fastest-growing wealth markets globally but according to Euromoney’s most recent research (Private Banking and Wealth Management Survey 2010 , Euromoney, February 2010) most of the main players in private banking in the continent’s biggest economies are international wealth managers. Brazil is the main exception, as the private banking divisions of local banks Itaú Unibanco, Bradesco and Banco do Brasil dominate the market, which is the biggest in Latin America, accounting for about one-third of the region’s private clients.

However, a number of international players are attacking the Brazilian market, attracted by the huge wealth generation it has witnessed during the past few years and its future potential. In November, Merrill Lynch opened a private banking service in Brazil, while Goldman Sachs did the same in October.

Local players are fighting back in many countries, including Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru and Argentina.

Last year, the high-net-worth-individual population in Latin America grew by 8.3% to 0.5 million, while HNWI wealth in the region jumped 15%, according to the most recent World Wealth Report published by Merrill Lynch and Cap Gemini.

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