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Rich Asians seen turning more to private banks as Brexit bites

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More rich Asians are asking private banks to manage their wealth amid increasing volatility in financial markets, a new survey shows, in an encouraging sign to firms such as UBS Group AG and Credit Suisse Group AG that are expanding their businesses in the region.

[SINGAPORE] More rich Asians are asking private banks to manage their wealth amid increasing volatility in financial markets, a new survey shows, in an encouraging sign to firms such as UBS Group AG and Credit Suisse Group AG that are expanding their businesses in the region.

About a quarter of high-net-worth investors in Asia were clients of private banks as of May, up from 10 per cent three years ago, according to the study released this week by Singapore-based East & Partners Asia Pte Ltd. The proportion of those managing their own wealth dropped to 52 per cent from 70 per cent in the same period.

That trend is set to continue, as Britain's vote to leave the European Union, uncertainties over the US and Chinese economies and currency volatility prompt more investors to seek professional advice, East & Partners analyst Jonathan Chng said.

The firm is projecting almost 30 per cent of wealthy Asians to become private-bank clients by next May, while those managing their own assets will fall to 47 per cent.

"Primarily due to the constant changes in the global economy and heightened market uncertainties, HNWIs clearly understand that professional advice is necessary for wealth accumulation and protection," Mr Chng said in an e-mailed reply to questions, using the term that refers to high-net-worth individuals.

The trend portends well for UBS and Credit Suisse as they focus on bolstering their wealth management businesses in Asia. UBS is seeking to double its staff in China over five years, as it adds about 600 people in areas from wealth management to investment banking.

Meanwhile, Credit Suisse plans to raise its client-adviser numbers in the Asia-Pacific region to about 800 by 2018, from 615 earlier this year.

Private wealth in the Asia-Pacific region surpassed that of North America for the first time in 2015, thanks to stronger economies and real estate markets, according to a Cap Gemini SA report published in June.

The East & Partners survey shows that real estate remains rich Asians' favourite investment, representing some 32 per cent of their asset allocations, followed by equities, alternative asset classes and fixed income.

However, the proportion for property has declined from 40 per cent in 2013 as investors sought more international equities and alternative assets, the study shows.

The firm surveys more than 900 wealthy people in China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand twice a year on their investment trends.

BLOOMBERG