Private Banking: When Will Asia Overtake Europe?

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 7/25/2013 09:38:00 AM
As more fortunes are being built with each passing day in Asia than in Europe, it is inevitable that the former will overtake the latter as the world's top region for HNWI (high net worth individual) accounts. Remember, the Forbes Rich List already had more Asian billionaires than European ones last year. Yet for historical reasons, it appears that assets under management (AUM) in Europe exceed those in Asia still. To be sure, there is some way to go before Singapore overtakes Switzerland, or Hong Kong overtakes London in country-country / city-city comparisons. From the Financial Times:
Singapore could yet overtake Switzerland as the word’s biggest wealth management centre, marking another landmark shift in the economic balance of power between east and west. Yesterday, the MAS [Monetary Authority of Singapore] revealed that the value of assets under management in the city-state had jumped by 22 per cent last year to a record S$1.63tn ($1.29tn), from S$1.34tn a year previously.

Earlier in the month, consultancy PwC predicted that Singapore could dislodge Switzerland as early as 2015. According to the Swiss Bankers Association, which draws on data from the SNB, there were SFr2.8tn ($2.99tn) of foreign assets under management in Switzerland in 2012. The reasons for such a projection are clear. For some years, and especially since the 2008 crisis, more wealth has been created in Asia, and faster, than in any other region at any other time.
The "supercharger" for Singapore is apparently rapid wealth creation in Southeast Asia which it is a part of. Rather than leave their money at home with the accompanying political and financial risks--remember the Asian financial crisis--many in the region prefer the relative "safe haven" that is Singapore with its sounder and better-regulated financial services industry:
While North America and Japan continue to be home to huge amounts of private wealth, Asia is accumulating wealth faster because it is being created by a new generation of entrepreneurs in the rapidly growing economies of southeast Asia...Singapore has also made a virtue of its position in the centre of southeast Asia to attract wealth from families in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines.
And what I find particularly amusing is that there is a lack of (qualified, private) bankers in Asia, when most Europeans probably believe that their countries would be better off with rather fewer of them:
In addition, banks say that they struggle with a shortage of qualified “relationship managers” to attract and keep clients. That job is made harder by the fact that wealthy entrepreneurs in southeast Asia typically like to hand their business to more than one bank at a time. Unlike in Europe, loyalty is low. UBS has tackled this by training its own managers at a local “wealth management campus”, housed in former British colonial-era military headquarters. But, for many players that lack the scale of UBS, they are forced to deal with significant costs.
It's a whole 'nother ball game in Asia as the Yanks say: the names may be familiar--UBS, Credit Suisse, etc.--but the rules of play are certainly different. Perhaps the mobility of the industry's big names to Southeast Asia is a reason why Switzerland itself is not too concerned about the Orient's rise.