Strategy

Barclays Steps Up Asia Private Banking Game

Tom Burroughes, Group Editor, 12 July 2021

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A recent senior hire by Barclays for its private bank in Singapore highlights how the UK-listed bank is going after UHNW and family offices clients in the Asian city-state and wider region, a senior executive explained.

Barclays is targeting ultra-high net worth individuals and family offices in Asia, and a recent senior hire underscores its commitment to knitting different parts of its business together, a senior executive says.

The move also suggests that although the UK-listed lender had spun off some wealth and investment business in Asia half a decade ago, its links to Asia were never severed. Barclays has operated in the Asia Pacific region for more than 50 years and, as far as the private bank goes, it is stepping up its presence.

A few days ago Barclays announced that former UBS executive, Evonne Tan, had been named head of its private banking business in Singapore. Tan reports to James Penny, head of Asia ex-India, at the private bank. As the UK-listed lender explained, Tan will focus on building on the collaboration between the private bank and Barclays's corporate and investment bank in Singapore.

As Barclays said at the time of Tan’s appointment, Singapore serves as a “strategically important location for Barclays in Asia-Pacific, which currently accounts for the highest number of UHNWIs globally”. 

The situation in which Barclays finds itself is very different from when, back in 2016, it sold its wealth and investment management arm to Singapore-listed OCBC – parent of Bank of Singapore. Barclays Private Bank did, however, retain its business in India, so it did keep an Asia presence. And the sheer growth of Asian wealth means that the market is too big, and growing too rapidly, to ignore, Penny told this publication.

“The world [in 2016] was a different place when the [spinoff decision] was made. We wanted to consider tapping Asia’s markets with a different proposition to that which we had in 2016,” Penny said. 

“Asia is forecast to experience the fastest growth in any region over the next decade. Singapore continues to be an important jurisdiction in the institutional space,” he continued. 
Tan will work alongside the existing Asia coverage team in London, looking after UHNW clients. She will focus on collaboration between the private bank, corporate and investment banking sides of Barclays, he said. 

For the moment, Barclays is concentrating on Singapore but will “have an eye on the broader region,” he continued. 

Asked about past changes at Barclays, Penny said the private bank is “increasingly targeting” the UHNW and family office segment. “We are very aware of the financial metrics of that segment.”

As a location, Singapore is unignorable, he said, adding: “It is guaranteed to come up in conversations.”

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