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North America: US battle for rich pickings grows fiercer

The US private banking market is becoming increasingly competitive as domestic and foreign players battle it out for the country’s wealthiest clients, who are making increasingly complex demands that require more holistic approaches from banks. Private bankers’ salaries are at all-time highs and there seems little chance of them coming down in the near future. Helen Avery reports.

PETER SCATURRO, CHIEF executive of private bank US Trust, pithily summed up the US wealth management industry in a conference call discussing the acquisition of the firm by Bank of America in November 2006. “The US is a big place with a lot of money,” he said.

There’s no arguing with that. The growth of the high-net-worth population in the US is for the time being slowing (according to the Merrill Lynch/Capgemini World Wealth report, the number of high-net-worth individuals grew 6.8% in 2005, compared with 9.9% in 2004) but the region still boasts the greatest amount of accumulated high-net-worth wealth in the world. There are an estimated 2.9 million people with more than $1 million in investable assets in North America, 29,000 of whom have more than $30 million. The growth of this wealth is expected to be above the global average. North America’s high-net-worth wealth is forecast to grow annually at 7.4% between 2005 and 2010, compared with a global growth rate of 6%.

It’s little wonder then that in 2006 there was a surge in competition for wallet share in the US, with investments being made by domestic players expanding regionally, and foreign private banks striving to make their mark.

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