By Nicolas Parasie
Standard Chartered's private banking division to open offices in Qatar, Bahrain and Lebanon.
Standard Chartered's private banking division is opening offices in Qatar, Bahrain and Lebanon, boosting its Middle Eastern presence in a bid to tap the region's growing market for services to the super rich.
The number of high net worth individuals, usually those with investable assets of around $1 million, in the oil-rich Gulf region is expected to grow around six percent between 2008 and 2013, despite a recent drop as a result of the financial crisis.
Standard Chartered plans to recruit seven relationship managers in the United Arab Emirates in the next 12 months, as part of a global expansion project announced in May.
"One of the things we started doing this year is opening local offices ... we put in a small team in Abu Dhabi, we're putting a small team into Qatar, the same in Bahrain, also in Beirut and probably longer term in Cairo," David Inglesfield, regional head of Standard Chartered Private Bank, told Reuters recently in an interview.
Local and international banks are jockeying to capture a bigger share of Middle Eastern private banking by hiring new staff and opening new offices across the region.
French bank Societe Generale on Thursday said it would open a new wealth management office in Bahrain, in addition to the bank's branches in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
"The important thing about the Middle East is that it is a market which is deep and liquid, significantly above-average wealth creation happening here and the private banking industry remains very young," Inglesfield said.
A newcomer to the world of private banking, Standard Chartered could benefit from the trouble at other, more established banks that have left the field or suffered reputational damage during the crisis.
"In some ways the fact that the industry is changing so much is almost an advantage to us because it creates an environment in which you can present a new name to clients and they will listen to what you have to offer," Inglesfield said.
"Five years ago, people would have said we deal with the traditional banks and why would we change?," he said. "Now you are certainly seeing clients reassess which banks they deal with," he added.
In the next three to four years, Standard Chartered expects to more than double the size of its business in the region, Inglesfield said, declining to be more specific. (Reuters)