* Deal part of Vontobel’s bid to expand to growth markets
* Swiss private banks struggling after tax evasion clampdown
* ANZ hopes Vontobel expertise will help its private bank
* Vontobel has warchest for acquisitions (Adds details, background)
ZURICH, Nov 27 (Reuters) - Swiss bank Vontobel AG has signed a cooperation deal with Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd (ANZ) aimed at tapping growth in Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Singapore.
Under the alliance - set to start in the first half of 2013 - ANZ will offer Vontobel’s investment and product expertise via its distribution network across the region.
“The planned alliance with ANZ offers attractive growth potential for our group and is a perfect example of our efforts to systematically extend our business activities into new growth markets,” said Vontobel Chief Executive Zeno Staub.
Swiss private banks are seeking to expand in markets like Asia as their core business in western Europe has come under pressure due to a concerted attack on tax evasion from neighbouring governments.
ANZ, the third largest financial institution in Australia and the biggest in New Zealand, said it wanted to use Vontobel’s expertise in areas including structured products and advisory services to grow its own private banking business in Asia.
Vontobel said in July assets under management climbed to 83 billion Swiss francs ($89 billion) in the first half of 2012 from 78.7 billion, profiting chiefly from new funds from clients in Asia, the United States and the Middle East.
The bank also said in July it wants to use a 600-million-franc war chest for acquisitions in the next two years as it looks to beef up its asset management arm and its lacklustre private banking business.
The push for deals by Staub, who took over last year, underscores a pledge to more evenly split profits between riskier investment banking activities and money management, both for institutional and wealthy private clients.
Vontobel’s wealthy client arm has long languished in the shadow of a far larger investment bank, a big issuer of structured products which posted nearly three times the private bank’s pretax profit in the first half of this year.
$1 = 0.9287 Swiss francs Reporting by Emma Thomasson; Editing by Mark Potter