Credit Agricole to integrate wealth management businesses into single brand

SINGAPORE - Credit Agricole is combining its global wealth management businesses under one single entity, as the French bank looks to streamline its operations in response to industry changes.

Credit Agricole's wealth management businesses were previously scattered across several entities and subsidiaries, such as Credit Agricole Luxembourg or Credit Agricole Suisse in Hong Kong.

But the rebranding campaign, started in 2012, will unify the operations under the name of Indosuez Wealth Management, a 140-year-old private bank acquired by the group in 1996.

"It gives us one single brand and identity. It also moves us into a new business model where we approach our clients in a more holistic manner," head of Wealth Management for Indosuez in Switzerland, Middle East and Asia, Mr Patrick Ramsey told The Straits Times as he announced the change in Singapore this week.

The globally integrated Indosuez Wealth Management will be better suited to service clients that are becoming more global in their wealth creation and personal needs, he noted, adding that it also gives Credit Agricole efficiency in resource management.

"We can have stronger synergy of expertise between regions, so we don't have to recreate capabilities for every market."

Having improved efficiency is a high priority for the industry now, as the financial sector navigates an increasingly stringent regulatory environment. The challenge is not lost to Indosuez, Mr Ramsey noted.

"With global regulators becoming more strict and structured with requirements, the industry is under a greater pressure to maintain margins and managing cost of functioning.

"The truth is, this business is not about having more or less people. We have to have the right size for our business model, and the right use of resources, in order to cope with regulatory burden and the changing demand of our clientele."

Indosuez Wealth Management now operates 30 offices in 14 countries and hires around 2,700 employees. In Asia, it has two booking centres - Singapore and Hong Kong - and a team of 62 relationship managers.

Despite the relatively small presence in the region, Indosuez still sees Asia as a key market. Asia accounts for around 8 per cent of Indosuez's global activities, and around €10 billion (S$15.4 billion) of its €110 billion total asset under management.

That global AUM grew from €93 billion in 2013, at a rate of around 9 per cent annually, "but in Asia our growth rate is even higher, at low double digit," Mr Ramsey said.

Currently Indosuez has no plan to build its a physical presence in Asia beyond Singapore and Hong Kong, but the bank is not concerned about its prospects in the region at a time when several European banks are reported to have scaled down or even pulled out of Asia.

"As cost becomes a huge part of the industry's equation, we all need to choose our battle and directions. You need to decide where you want to focus and be sharper. Maybe not for others, but for us, Asia is a priority and a key pillar or our activities.

"But we recognise that the ball game is changing, with the local banks emerging as strong players. We would not claim having the right expertise in very local needs. But we can be very complimentary to local individuals or entrepreneurs that are taking their business interests and lifestyle global."

whwong@sph.com.sg