RETAIL BANKING | Tony Chua, Hong Kong

Hong Kong gains edge in private banking

Proximity to business owners and those with strong business network in China has given Hong Kong advantage at the mass affuent priority banking level.

Hong Kong, by far the region’s largest capital market and a thriving entrepreneurial culture, has always been well poised for the wealth management industry, especially at the mass affuent priority banking level with many of them banking onshore on the island and a large ultra high net worth segment banking offshore (i.e. in Singapore or Zurich), according to a Robert Walters Singapore report.

In the earlier years, other than the Southeast Asia region, Singapore has benefitted from the fight of wealth away from North Asia.

The Special Administrative Region also enjoys the natural advantage of having a direct benefit from the continued prosperity of China, with its proximity to business owners and those with strong business network and connections in China. It also has the world’s most watched equity market which now hosts some of the world’s largest public offerings.

The current observed trends in Hong Kong’s favour as a private banking site over Singapore are:

  • The lack of new upcoming private bankers in Singapore covering North Asia.
  • An eagerness by international financial institutions to establish their presence in China and build a good relationship with Beijing i.e. by situating global desks directly in Hong Kong. The overwhelming support shown by the global community for the World Expo in China this year is a testament to the rush to support the Chinese market.
  • To China’s credit, after 13 years since Hong Kong’s handover in 1997, Hong Kongers are getting increasingly comfortable with the business-as-usual manner accorded by the Chinese government, which in turn breeds confdence in them having their wealth managed onshore.

As a result, Robert Walters have seen some global private banks sending their senior managers into Hong Kong with a broader remit to look after Asia Pacifc. In previous years, such positions are more likely to be situated in Singapore.

However, the discreet nature of private wealth management has always been about banking offshore ‘away from prying eyes’. With a tax and banking friendly regulatory climate, Robert Walters foresee that Singapore will continue to remain a key global private banking hub as it stands to beneft from the growing wealth not just in North Asia but in South Asia, Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

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