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Banking

Asian private banking: Still room for growth

Costs are rising in Asian private banking but the vast and untapped pools of wealth in the region mean that it is still a highly attractive business proposition. The adverse market environment will further reduce margins. However, on a long-term basis the opportunities are too good to miss. Helen Avery reports.

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WHICH FIRM WOULD not want to be in private banking in Asia? About one-third of the world’s millionaires live in the region, and their wealth is growing fast. According to the Merrill Lynch/Capgemini World Wealth Report, wealth in the region is growing at an annual rate of 8.5%, second only to the Middle East.

Many of these assets have yet to work their way into private banks. One private bank head estimates that only about 17% of high-net-worth individuals in the region have private banking relationships. With so much untapped wealth, and such growth forecast, private banks in the region can almost grow assets with their eyes closed. Indeed, assets under management in private banks in Asia Pacific are expected to grow at an annual rate of almost 30% over the next three years according to PricewaterhouseCoopers’ 2007 survey of more than 250 senior executives in the global private banking industry.

Revenues are expected to grow at 26% a year between 2008 and 2010, up from 14% in the 2006 to 2008 period. It’s little wonder then that an increasing number of international banks have established private banking franchises in Hong Kong or Singapore, or that local banks have been expanding their private banking propositions.

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