Best Asian Private Bank
|Sim Lim, DBS Bank|
DBS has partly grown its private bank through acquisitions. In October 2016, it announced its purchase of ANZ’s retail banking and wealth management business in Asia, adding assets from China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Singapore and Taiwan. The acquisition, which cost about S$110 million ($80 million), was completed the following year.
But the Singaporean bank has mainly focused on organic growth, moving its clients through three premium categories as they accumulate wealth. Its DBS Treasures service accepts clients with between S$350,000 and S$1.5 million in assets, DBS Treasures Private Clients expects assets of up to S$5 million, and above that clients are moved into DBS Private Bank.
It is hard to directly compare the bank with its rivals, since its assets under management figures combine all three of these categories. But by any metric, its recent performance has been remarkable. The bank’s AuM grew 11% to S$245 billion ($176 billion) in 2019.
The income the bank earned from its wealth management business reached an all-time high of S$3.08 billion, an annual rise of 16%.
DBS’s retail and private bank, overseen by Sim S Lim, group head, consumer banking group and wealth management, has made the most of its investment specialists to drive product sales.
The firm’s chief investment officer outlined a barbell strategy in the third quarter of 2019 that balances growth investments, particularly those in technology, services for millennials and China, with income-generating assets, including real estate investment trusts, dividend-yielding stocks and corporate bonds.
DBS packaged the strategy into a ‘barbell index note’, which had generated assets of S$404 million by March 24.
DBS has beaten its retail and corporate banking rivals for some time now by making smarter use of technology. It is no different in private banking. Its technology offerings include the NextGen DBS iWealth mobile app, which was redesigned last year; DBS Wealth Chat, which integrates with services such as WhatsApp and WeChat while also maintaining security; and its DigiPortfolio, a combination of human expertise and artificial intelligence that it launched with start-up Quantifeed.
Like many of its rivals, DBS is putting plenty of emphasis on catering to the next generation of high net-worth individuals. Its Future Leaders Programme gives presentations and networking opportunities to second generation wealthy, while its focus on ESG directly targets a growing desire of that client base.
Best International Private Bank
Best for Wealth Transfer/Succession Planning
|Francois Monet, Credit Suisse|
It boasts assets under management of SFr220 billion ($228.5 billion) across the region. Those assets grew by SFr8.7 billion last year. It has roughly 600 relationship managers across Asia Pacific, meaning it dwarfs most private banking operations in Asia, although Swiss rival UBS is still bigger.
Credit Suisse also has impressive breadth across the region. It has strong roots in Indonesia, planted many years ago but given strength when the firm stuck with its key clients following the Asian financial crisis. It is one of the biggest and best in Hong Kong and Singapore. It has boots on the ground in Thailand, but elsewhere in southeast Asia it has shown that key clients can be covered superbly from outside.
Senior bankers at Credit Suisse say that about 80% of their clients’ wealth sits onshore, giving them a clear temptation to rush into setting up domestic operations. But the Swiss bank has been patient, putting emphasis on slow and steady expansion of its footprint.
This includes investments in China. The bank opened a representative office in the country in 1885 but it has been a long road since
|Benjamin Cavalli, Credit Suisse|
Credit Suisse’s wealth planning services team is a key plank of its offering to ultra-high net-worth investors, helping Asia’s wealthiest families navigate the myriad strategic, tax and investment decisions they face when planning wealth transfer.
It has also launched an Asia-Pacific version of its Young Investor Programme, a five-day programme that helps prepare the scions of ultra-wealthy families for the responsibility they will face in the coming years.
The private bank is run across Asia by Francois Monnet, who manages north Asia, and Benjamin Cavalli, who runs south Asia.
The two men report directly to Helman Sitohang, chief executive of Asia, following Credit Suisse’s move to run its Asian operations as an entirely separate division. That has long appeared a smart move for a region that demands a dedicated, bespoke approach.
It is even smarter for the clients of private banks, who are likely to make these demands more than anyone.
Best for Investment Research
Best for HNW
Citi Private Bank
|Steven Lo, Citi Private Bank|
Citi did not break down its Asian revenues, but its Asia-Pacific AuM have grown about 66% since 2011, according to figures from the end of 2019. Its total AuM in Hong Kong, where Asia-Pacific head of private banking Steven Lo is based, have risen 50% over the same period.
Citi has a key advantage over niche private banks, and even those that are attached to smaller corporate and investment banking units: its investment banking team offers product depth across all asset classes, and allows senior executives to connect the dots and work on solutions that make sense for the private bank, the corporate and investment bank and, most of all, for Citi’s clients.
It also has an enviable physical presence across Asia that means Citi bankers are already likely to have relationships with the high net-worth individuals of the future.
Customers looking for asset allocation advice or discretionary portfolio management options need look no further. Citi’s fixed income team gave their clients a return of 9% in 2019.
The discretionary equity team, navigating a tumultuous year defined by trade tensions and the Hong Kong protests, returned 19% from their China/Hong Kong strategy last year.
Other banks can boast impressive returns in the debt and equity markets. What makes Citi stand out is the range of its product offering. The bank considers somewhere between 200 and 300 private equity and real estate deals for its clients every year. It chooses around 5% of them.
Its depth means it can offer clients more specific investment opportunities than its rivals. Whether its clients are interested in buying non-performing loans from European banks, taking equity stakes in pre-IPO Chinese tech companies or taking advantage of special situation investment opportunities, Citi’s global network ensures the practicalities of making these are investments easy.
Citi’s Global Investment Lab offers bespoke solutions to portfolio creation and risk management to its ultra-high net-worth clients, using the bank’s staff in Singapore, Hong Kong, New York, London, Geneva and Dubai to offer a global solution to local account holders.
The bank supplements this man-made insight with technology, including artificial intelligence and machine learning to help generate investment strategies. This approach to identifying investment opportunities, combined with Citi’s world-class ability to execute deals, has given the US bank one of the finest private banking operations in Asia.
Best for UHNW
JPMorgan Private Bank
|Kam Shing Kwang, JPMorgan Private Bank|
The US lender knows that many (if not most) of its UHNW clients are family groups with complex and interlocking needs.
Some might simply be focused on getting the best deposit rates. Then there are family groups who focus on transferring wealth to the next generation – and as they do so, their needs become more nuanced and their financial and geographic expectations far greater.
JPMorgan doubled down on its focus on Asian UHNWs about a decade ago, at a point where the global financial crisis was ebbing and personal wealth was soaring.
It realized that a great number of future dollar millionaires and billionaires were lying under its radar, in the aspiring mass-affluent sector, so it reached out to them. It was a decision that paid off handsomely.
It has invested heavily in technology and in training its relationship managers. It has also cleverly positioned itself as an invaluable ally for Asian UHNWs looking to ring-fence a sizeable share of their family wealth in the US, be it for personal consumption, or to prepare for the future needs of children and grandchildren.
As next-generation Asian family members look to follow their own financial route in life, some of them are building their own family offices in the US and seeking out specific investment advice and opportunities. That has become an important driver of growth, and helped to generate a record inflow of private banking assets into the lender in Asia in 2019.
Under Kam Shing Kwang, the Asia chief executive of JPMorgan Private Bank, it continues to offer world-class investment advice to clients during the Covid-19 crisis, leading on from a year in which it advised customers to de-risk in light of signs that a multi-year equity cycle was starting to wind down.
And its flagship conferences remain as much of a pull to UHNW clients as ever, including the latest and handily timed JPMorgan Healthcare Conference, held in January 2020 in San Francisco, which hosted many of the largest healthcare industry firms on the planet, as well as several pre-IPO prospects.