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China, India seen driving Asia’s wealth market

SG PRIVATE Bank is looking to China and India to drive Asia’s wealth markets, and the sub-prime crisis is a short-term hiccup, says chief executive Pierre Baer.

The firm advises on some US$20 billion in Asian clients’ assets, posting an annual growth of about 30 per cent. It set up its Singapore office in 1998.

‘Despite the recent increases in their stock markets, China and India will be the wealth drivers. This is a structural, fundamental shift in wealth generation that we’ve not seen previously,’ says Mr Baer.

SG Private Bank recently opened its new office at One Raffles Quay, on which it spent millions of dollars – in ‘double-digit millions’ – to renovate. The centre is adorned with a collection of contemporary Asian and Australian art.

The bank employs some 600 staff in the region, of whom half are based in Singapore. It has separate teams to service non-resident Indian clients, as well as non-Asian clients from Europe and the Middle East.

The bank continues to hire, but is ‘elitist’ in its approach, he says. ‘The growth and quality of the financial industry will depend on the quality of its people… We are somewhat elitist in our hiring. We’ve turned down candidates even if they have a book of business because we didn’t think they had all the skill sets required for the long term.’

The bank, he says, does not set product targets, which run against the grain of client advisory. Bankers should be at pains to identify clients’ needs.

SG will set up its own training centres in Hong Kong and Singapore for its career bankers. At the moment, some 110 bankers have been sent to Paris and London to complete a number of training modules.

He says clients are at the moment concerned about volatility, and are tapping structured products to temper that. ‘It is not about how much money you can make but how much you avoid losing. The fear of losing is key.’

SG’s key services include philanthropic and trust advisory. On the alternative front, the bank offers a wine investment fund which has so far attracted some US$40 million in assets.


Source: Business Times 28 Nov 07

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