OCBC's private banking unit targets bigger slice of booming family offices business

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SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Bank of Singapore, the private banking arm of lender OCBC (SI:OCBC), plans to grab a bigger share of the fast-growing family office business by expanding its investment products and targeting clients outside the region, its CEO said.

Its assets under management declined to $104 billion in the year to March from $108 billion a year ago due to the market downturn but assets of the segment catering to family offices, which manage the fortunes of the rich, rose 20%.

“The family office is a big segment, not only from China but also from the Middle East as well as other parts of the world,” Bahren Shaari told Reuters in an interview.

Bank of Singapore, which was ranked No. 6 in Asian Private Banker’s league table last year, competes with UBS (S:UBSG) and Credit Suisse (S:CSGN) in providing family offices of rich Asians with services including investments and wealth transfer.

Incentives offered by Singapore to set up such private investment vehicles has boosted demand for services by wealthy individuals in the Middle East and other places.

“There is wealth transfer happening between the first generation to the next generation. Managing money in the past was a part-time business, now it’s a full-time business,” said Bahren, 57.

“There is a big interest in private markets. We make sure we have a complete offering on hedge funds, private equity, direct investments and real estate. That has grown quite a fair bit over the last one year.”

Bank of Singapore is also evaluating setting up an onshore presence in China at a time when Beijing’s crackdown on shadow banking is pushing investors to the mainstream wealth management business.

“We look at the opportunities. Of course, there’s an urgency to really look at what we can do onshore,” said Bahren, adding this could be done with local partnerships.

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