The private banking unit of OCBC, Bank of Singapore, is exploring launching an onshore presence in China either with a domestic partner or on its own, its chief executive officer Bahren Shaari told the Reuters Global Wealth Management Summit yesterday.
Regional and global banks have been cautious about setting up a local private banking and wealth management presence in China due to regulatory restrictions and the nation's relatively less developed capital market. But as the world's second-biggest economy continues to open up, the banks are reassessing their plans.
Earlier this week, Standard Chartered said at the summit it will consider next year whether to start an onshore private bank in China.
Mr Shaari said: "We are looking to explore partnerships, joint ventures or any other mode in which we can bring our offshore expertise to an onshore setup that already has a good client base. Whether we will set up our own Bank of Singapore entity is also something we are exploring." He did not give a timeline for the plan.
OCBC already has an onshore presence in China with branches in major Chinese cities, while its subsidiary, Wing Hang China, has a strong presence in the Pearl River delta region in Guangdong province.
China's growing population of millionaires and billionaires is a big draw for private banks despite obstacles such as a restricted currency regime and limited availability of financial products.
An onshore presence for Bank of Singapore in China would mean it would be competing against Goldman Sachs and UBS on advising wealthy clients in the local market.
Bank of Singapore agreed in April to buy Barclays' wealth business in Singapore and Hong Kong in a deal that will push the wealth manager just behind bigger rival DBS Group Holdings, ranked by an industry survey as Asia's sixth-biggest private bank.
Mr Shaari said he expects the integration to be completed by the end of the year and the majority of Barclays' 88 private bankers to move to Bank of Singapore.
The bank expects to manage US$70 billion (S$95 billion) to US$75 billion in assets, he said, a rise of more than 30 per cent compared to the period before the Barclays deal was announced.