Published July 5, 2008

Wealthy clients to zip around F1 party circuit

Private banks in high-stakes race to wow clients and woo millionaires


(SINGAPORE) Tread carefully near the Padang during the last weekend of September. Otherwise, chances are you'll be stepping on one of the thousands of millionaires that the city's first Formula One race is certain to attract.

Many of them will be clients of private banks - invited to the Sept 26-28 F1 race - as their hosts vie to throw the sexiest parties with the most oomph.

The competition around the circuit will be every bit as fierce and the F1 tickets are just a small part of the cost.

'It'll be very competitive during that period - everyone's going for the sexiest venues. You've got to have glamour and prestige, you've got to be more creative,' said one private banker.

Standard Chartered Bank is bringing in 200 clients with many flying in from other parts of Asia, as well as the Middle East, Africa, Europe and the Americas.

Said V Shankar, group head of origination and client coverage, Standard Chartered Bank: 'The F1 is the most significant investment we have made in a client entertainment opportunity in recent times in Singapore.'

He added: 'We will cater to the tiniest of details and ensure that our clients have a fantastic and memorable experience at the world's first night race. We are planning on unique dinners and other opportunities for our guests to meet each other and build networks.'

Altogether, 13,000 corporate tickets costing $3,500 to $7,500 each for a seat in the Paddock Club are being snapped up by financial institutions and other major sponsors who are treating the inaugural F1 night race as a serious marketing tool.

'There are more parallels than one might think between banking and Formula One - there is a drive for excellence in both,' said Francois Monnet, managing director and head of private banking, South-east Asia and Australasia, Credit Suisse. Credit Suisse, first sponsor and official partner of the BMW Sauber team, is inviting an estimated 900 international guests from its private bank, investment bank and asset management divisions. The tie-up is used to convey the bank's brand and image across its target markets.

Another 300-plus grandstand tickets have also been reserved for Credit Suisse staff to purchase.

ING, the major sponsor of Renault team, is hosting some 1,000 mainly private banking clients.

While many of those invited are local millionaires, captains of industry and personalities, bankers told BT that they will also be flying in a fair number of clients from all over the world for the first ever F1 night race.

To help some of these jetsetters feel at home, servings of Singapore's humble kueh pie tee dish - to give a local flavour, but not too much - are being upgraded with lobster and caviar fillings.

Organisers said finding exclusive and glamorous venues to host parties involved quite an effort because international clients are tough to impress.

The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), which is a major sponsor of the Williams team, will host 400 clients to a cocktail at the old Supreme Court building where they will have a chance to get up close and personal with F1 legend and three-time world champion Jackie Stewart.

Said Alan Goodyear, country executive, RBS Singapore: 'RBS will be holding an exclusive gala cocktail at the old Supreme Court on Thursday evening before the F1 weekend to give our clients an experience of F1. The venue has been chosen because of its proximity to the F1 race track and because it is one of the iconic buildings of Singapore.'

RBS group CEO Fred Goodwin will be flying in to entertain the bank's private and corporate clients, which include some of the top business leaders in Asia and Europe, he said.

RBS, which owns RBS Coutts, one of the UK's oldest private banks, last year bought the Netherlands' biggest bank ABN Amro in the largest bank takeover ever in history.

Singapore's F1 will be an opportunity to bring together local and international clients and relationship managers from RBS, RBS Coutts and ABN Amro, said Mr Goodyear.

OCBC Bank is the only one of the three local banks to invite about 100 lucky customers to F1.

'We will host our top- tier customers at the prestigious F1 Paddock Club. Our guests at the OCBC dedicated Paddock Club suite will not only enjoy the food and entertainment provided by the F1 Paddock Club, they will also have VIP access to the pit area to get close to the racers and cars,' said Koh Ching Ching, head of group corporate communications, OCBC Bank.

The guest list of Singapore Telecommunications, the title sponsor of F1, runs into the hundreds, said spokesman Peter Heng.