Published March 20, 2008

Macquarie to start wealth business here

The private bank will be targeting ultra-high net worth individuals in Asia


PRIVATE banks are still bullish on Singapore and the region, with many of them continuing to hire or set up shop operations here.

Australia's Macquarie Group said yesterday it will launch an Asian private wealth business with its first office in Singapore - the private bank's first step outside Australia. The local operation will be headed by Joseph Poon, former head of South Asia at JP Morgan Private Bank.

Rather than capitalising on its Australian parentage and gunning for Australian expatriates living in Singapore, the bank will be looking at ultra-high net worth individuals (UHNWI) all over Asia.

Only those with more than US$30 million need apply. 'We will focus on UHNWI as we still see this segment growing strongly,' Guy Hedley, head of Macquarie Private Bank in Australia, said yesterday. 'They are not immune from the current market volatility but are less susceptible.'

Mr Poon said that there are also fewer players in the UHNWI space.

As for headcount, the operation will be staffed by 'experienced local advisers', said Mr Hedley, who did not give figures on how many will be hired. 'Hiring is fluid and driven by client needs, but we don't intend to be a big player, to have 100 or 1,000 relationship managers,' he said.

Macquarie's private bank niche, Mr Poon said, will come from leveraging on the bank's corporate finance advisory division. 'Our clients will have access to advice and deal flows. We can provide corporate advisory on infrastructure, real estate and commodities.'

The great majority of Asian UHNWIs run private or public businesses, and their wealth is derived from these businesses, he said. 'The links between private and business wealth are very close, so we can mobilise our institutional capabilities to help.'

The bank's corporate finance advisory business in Singapore is its largest in Asia, and it has 500 advisory staff across the Asian region.

Singapore, as the world's fastest growing private banking and wealth management centre, is set to become a regional hub for Macquarie private bank, Mr Hedley said. 'We intend to house our Australian back office for the private bank here.'

Singapore has experienced one of the greatest increases in high net worth individuals in the region, with their estimated wealth standing at US$323.73 billion, according to the Capgemini/Merrill Lynch 2007 Asia-Pacific Wealth Report.