Bank of Singapore to use Dubai as regional base

Office workers pass an Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp (OCBC) building in the central business district of Singapore January 6, 2014. REUTERS/Edgar Su

DUBAI: The private banking arm of Singapore’s second-biggest lender OCBC is targeting annual growth of assets of more than 20 percent from its new office in Dubai, which it aims to use to attract wealthy clients from the Middle East and Africa, its chief executive told Reuters Sunday. Bank of Singapore launched the office Sunday in the Dubai International Financial Center after receiving a license late last year to conduct private banking including investment, credit and wealth-planning advisory services to its ultrahigh and high net worth clients. “Dubai will be the hub, where we will cover the MENA region and Western side,” Bahren Shaari said in an interview. “This is a pivot for not only the MENA region but also for the West.”

Bank of Singapore is expanding in a competitive market where a number of foreign banks such as Citigroup and HSBC operate alongside the private banking units of local banks. It recently completed the acquisition of Barclays Wealth’s Singapore and Hong Kong unit which boosted its assets to $79 billion at the end of 2016.

Shaari said he expected assets managed out of its Dubai office to register a more than 20 percent compound annual growth rate over the next three to five years.

Private wealth in the Middle East and North Africa is projected to rise at a compound annual rate of 8.2 percent to reach $11.8 trillion by 2020, according to research from Boston Consulting Group. The rate of growth is higher than for most other regions including North America, Europe and Latin America.

The bank will target ultrahigh net worth clients, those with liquid assets of $30 million and above.

The office will have a staff of around 75, including 36 relationship managers and compliance staff, with the bank aiming to hire people as it expands.

Many of its core clients in the region are nonresident Indians who have lived in the Middle East and Africa for decades, in some cases. It also has a smaller number of Middle Eastern clients, including wealthy families.

It wants to attract more clients from Africa including Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.

Bank of Singapore has had a presence in Dubai since 1996 through its representative office based outside the DIFC, the emirate’s financial free zone.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 20, 2017, on page 15.




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