DBS sees robust growth in private banking business, led by family offices

SINGAPORE, Sept 4 (Reuters) - DBS Group’s private banking unit has seen its business activity rebound to pre-COVID levels and aims to grow assets under management by 7-8% next year as it seeks a bigger share of the world’s-fastest growth wealth market, a top executive said.

Southeast Asia’s biggest lender is benefitting from a growing trend of global family offices setting up shop in Singapore, keen to tap into investment opportunities in Asia and attracted by incentives offered by the city-state, said Joseph Poon, head of DBS Private Bank.

He said large family offices from Europe and the United States were increasingly looking to diversify to Asia - the world’s fastest growing wealth market.

“They pretty much see Singapore as a lighthouse to the region,” said Poon, who joined DBS from UBS in 2016 and has also worked at Julius Baer and JPMorgan Private Bank in his over two decades banking experience.

Singapore-based DBS, one of the biggest wealth managers in Asia excluding China, with wealth assets under management of $184 billion as of the end of June, has a booking centre in Hong Kong but Poon said the private bank had not seen “any discernible movement” in money flows over the past year.

Poon said net new money at the private bank has risen by over 170% in the first half, driven by flows from Southeast Asia, Greater China, Europe and some from the United States.

“Many, many clients who opened accounts with us in the past, have funded their accounts with much more money than we expected,” he said.

Poon said clients had shown interest in investing in technology companies and dividend plays such as real estate investment trusts.

DBS is seeing strong growth in Thailand, where most of the wealth is held in family-owned businesses, which are now expanding overseas. Through a partnership, DBS Private Bank offers offshore wealth management products to Thai customers.

“We aim to double the assets under management that we have from Thai clients over the next three years,” said Poon.

Buoyed by the Thai success, DBS is keen to grow its footprint in the Philippines in the medium-term, beyond its representative office.

“We are kicking the tyres like we did in Thailand 2-3 years ago. We are about 1-2 years away from doing something if we get the right conversations going,” he said, adding options included an onshore presence or partnerships.

$1 = 1.3642 Singapore dollars Reporting by Anshuman Daga; Editing by Mark Potter