Asian e-broking: The new frontier
Asia is set to become the new battleground for online brokers. A nascent market with huge potential is incentive enough for the big guns from the US to invest heavily in developing Asian operations. Hong Kong offers a gateway into the new markets, particularly China, for international firms that look set to put many local brokers out of business. Julian Marshall reports
The online brokers building up new operations in Asia have little doubt about the heady prospects for their business in the region.
“We think Asia has the potential to outstrip the US,” says Christina Hui, regional general manager, Asia, for Charles Schwab. The view she gets from her Exchange Square office window of Hong Kong’s thriving Central below will do little to dissuade her of this optimistic-sounding claim.
At TD Waterhouse, Karen Buck, managing director of its Hong Kong operation, reinforces the view. “Hong Kong will be a very important market,” says Buck. “We’re certainly committed to Asia and to growing the online business here.” TD Waterhouse has also opened offices in Japan and Australia and is looking at a venture in India. At some point after the new business has become more established, Hong Kong may become the regional centre. But at the moment each country is being treated as a separate market.
According to research by Schwab, the vast overseas Chinese population, not just in greater China, but worldwide, offers a huge business opportunity. Schwab estimates it controls more than $1 trillion in investable assets.
It is numbers like these that are bringing into Asia the leaders in internet-based share trading, such as Schwab and TD Waterhouse, along with other big online broking names including E*trade and DLJ.