BNP plans Asia wealth-management hires as rivals retreat
BNP Paribas SA plans to substantially increase the number of client advisers employed by its Asian wealth-management business, seeing an opportunity in the retreat of some European rivals from the region.
BNP has been investing and hiring in Asia for several years and intends to continue its push, says Vincent Lecomte, co-head of the French bank’s wealth-management business.
Asked about the potential for acquisitions, he says the bank’s priority is to grow on its own. “The best way for us to grow is to attract new clients as well as new teams,” Lecomte says in an interview in Paris.
He says the bank intends to add a few dozen relationship managers by 2020 in Asia to advise clients on investments. It currently employs 270, mainly in Hong Kong and Singapore but also in Taiwan and India.
BNP’s expansion illustrates the contrasting fortunes of some European players in the region. Societe Generale SA and ABN Amro Group NV, which had smaller local wealth-management activities, have pulled out, leaving the field to bigger players that can afford to invest in skilled personnel and cover the added compliance costs that come with such an expansion.
Many private banks are finding it hard to make enough profit in Asia, creating opportunities for their rivals, Lecomte says.
Hiring relationship managers from other firms is one way to capture assets in a region producing evermore billionaires, because they bring their clients with them when they change employers.
Deutsche Bank AG plans to add about 50 positions, including client advisers, in the second half of 2017, Lok Yim, head of Asian wealth management, said in June.
Others are using a combination of acquisitions and recruiting. Credit Agricole SA this year purchased Credit Industriel et Commercial’s wealth management units in Hong Kong and Singapore to reach US$14bil in client assets in Asia. It is also planning to hire 15 to 20 bankers annually in coming years.
BNP increased its Asian private-banking assets 15% a year on average between 2012 and 2016, more than twice as fast as growth across the industry, according to the Asian Private Banker, which tracks the biggest wealth managers in Asia excluding mainland China.
BNP, which aims to get into the top five in Asian private banking, comes eighth in a ranking led by UBS Group AG, Asian Private Banker’s data shows.
While Lecomte declined to give specific growth targets, BNP’s private bank is shoot€ ing for more than 400bil (US$474bil) under management globally by 2020, compared € with 355bil at the end of June. Asia already accounts for about 20% of those assets.
Historically Asian clients have preferred to select their investments themselves, but that is starting to change, Lecomte says. BNP is seeing more demand from the region for discretionary-portfolio services that have “solid double-digit growth,” he says.
The French bank, which has wealth-management offices in 20 countries, is also looking to expand in other regions, including European markets like Switzerland and Germany.
Asian entrepreneurs are searching opportunities in France and Germany to diversify their commercial real-estate investments now that the outlook for the eurozone has improved.
BNP’s wealth and asset management activ€ ities generated a pre-tax profit of 226mil in the second quarter, up 25% from a year earlier, according to the bank’s filings. The bank doesn’t provide a breakdown by region.
“We have made the choice many years ago to focus on a limited number of markets, because we think that we need to be disciplined to maximise our expertise,” Lecomte says. — Bloomberg
Growth potential: A customer uses an automated teller machine outside a BNP Paribas bank branch in Paris.The bank intends to add a few dozen relationship managers by 2020 in Asia to advise clients on investments. — Bloomberg