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Asia: OCBC’s Barclays bid boosts Singapore’s PB heft

OCBC subsidiary Bank of Singapore’s successful bid for the private banking operations of Barclays in Asia is another sign of the bank’s ambitions in regional wealth management. It’s entirely in keeping with Singaporean banks in general, all of which have sensed an opportunity to grow while multinationals have been cutting back.

Bahren Shaari-600

Bahren Shaari, CEO of Bank of Singapore, aims to 'work as one team under
one roof'

Two things happened within a week of each other in April, both illustrating the same pattern from a different direction. First, OCBC’s subsidiary Bank of Singapore was confirmed as the winning bidder for Barclays’ private banking operations in Asia, paying $320 million for a $18.3 billion, 1,800-client asset book. Then, a few days later, JPMorgan confirmed reports of a series of cuts in its own Asian private banking division, stripping out potentially 20% of its relationship manager headcount. 

This seems to be the way of things in Asian private banking lately: home-grown, chiefly Singaporean, enterprises staffing up and pursuing ambitious regional plans; and all but the biggest western multinationals either selling out of the business or cutting headcount within it. 

In fact, the very existence of Bank of Singapore marks the start of this trend: the bank came into being because of it. It was only in 2010 that OCBC bought ING Asia Private Bank for $1.46 billion and renamed it Bank of Singapore, pouring in OCBC’s modest existing private banking business to get it started.

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