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Bank of Singapore hires private bankers for Middle East wealth

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The private-banking arm of Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC) is adding more staff in Dubai, as the Singapore lender seeks a greater role managing the money of the Middle East's wealthy and of Indians living overseas.

[SINGAPORE] The private-banking arm of Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC) is adding more staff in Dubai, as the Singapore lender seeks a greater role managing the money of the Middle East's wealthy and of Indians living overseas.

Bank of Singapore plans to hire about 20 relationship managers next year to cater to non-resident Indians and rich people in the Arab world, according to Vikram Malhotra, the bank's global market head for South Asia and the Middle East. Most of the additions will be based in Dubai, though some will be located in Singapore and Hong Kong to bolster the bank's non-resident Indian teams in those cities, Malhotra said in an interview last week.

Bank of Singapore opened a Dubai branch in February, and currently has about 45 wealth managers in the city, which serves as a regional financial hub for the oil-rich Persian Gulf region. The total wealth in the Middle East grew five per cent last year to US$2.4 trillion, according to estimates from the consultancy Capgemini.

Bank of Singapore has seen a "phenomenal growth in the assets under management" in the Middle East and from wealthy overseas Indians this year, said Mr Malhotra, who joined the private bank from Barclays when the London-based bank sold its wealth units in Hong Kong and Singapore to OCBC last year for US$227.5 million.

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About 15 former Barclays wealth managers joined Bank of Singapore in Dubai, Mr Malhotra said. All of the clients inherited from Barclays "are still here and growing," said Mr Malhotra, who headed South and South-east Asian wealth operations when he was at the UK bank. At the time of completing the acquisition last year, Bank of Singapore said it would gain more than 60 relationship managers from Barclays, bringing the total at the private bank to about 400.

Dubai is second only to Singapore as an offshore destination for Indian wealth, according to Capgemini. About 22 per cent of their overseas assets went to the Southeast Asian nation in the second quarter, with 14 per cent going to Dubai and 13 per cent to London, the research firm said in a November report.

As well as non-resident Indians in the region, Bank of Singapore sees particular opportunities in managing the wealth of citizens of the United Arab Emirates, Mr Malhotra said.

Some of the wealthiest Saudis have been in the spotlight recently amid a crackdown on corruption that has led to the detention of dozens of the country's most influential people. Citigroup and UBS Group are among international banks managing the largest share of assets for wealthy Saudis, people familiar with the matter said last month.

"The Middle East has their own challenges as do other" regions, Mr Malhotra said, while declining to comment on the situation in Saudi Arabia. "But as long as wealth keeps on getting created, we are very well placed for the private banking industry."

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