RETAIL BANKING | Tony Chua, Singapore

OCBC woos customers defecting from French banks

The lender wants to gain share from defectors who withdrawn billions of their investments from French lenders.

Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp. said it is attracting assets from the Singapore branches of French banks as the euro region’s debt crisis spooks wealthy clients.

“There’s a lot of outflows from French banks because of the European debt crisis,” Renato de Guzman, chief executive officer of Oversea-Chinese’s private-banking unit, said in an interview. “Investors are panicking at the moment.”

Defections from French banks, including BNP Paribas SA, helped generate net new money of about $4 billion for Bank of Singapore this year, Guzman said. The private bank had $29.6 billion of assets under management at the end of June, less than 9 percent of the total at BNP Paribas’s wealth management unit.

BNP Paribas and Societe Generale SA, France’s largest banks, last month committed to trim their balance sheets as Europe’s debt crisis threatens to make them too big to save. French financial firms had $672 billion in public and private debt in Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Italy and Spain at the end of March, the biggest exposure to the euro-area’s troubled countries.

BNP Paribas spokeswoman Julie Beuter declined to comment on net new money in Singapore, after the Paris-based bank reported total first-half net inflows of 7.8 billion euros ($10.4 billion). BNP Paribas, which had 257 billion euros under management at the end of June, doesn’t break down new money flows by country.

Estelle Dunand, a spokeswoman for Societe Generale, declined to comment as the bank doesn’t break down inflows by region. Anne-Sophie Gentil, a spokeswoman for Credit Agricole, the third-biggest French bank, also declined to comment.

View the full story in Business Week.

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